The UK government's ban on petrol and diesel vehicles could provide a post-Brexit boost to Britain's car makers. In July, the government announced a ban on air-polluting vehicles from 2040 to cut potentially deadly NO2 emissions.
In a bid for cleaner air, Number 10 has pledged to provide £255m to fund the plans, on top of £2.7bn already invested to fund what Transport Secretary Chris Grayling called “a green revolution in transport [to] reduce pollution in our towns and cities.”
Air pollution in the UK
Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK costing £2.7bn in lost productivity in 2012. The UK is one of 17 EU countries who have failed to meet legal European air standards.
A review by the World Health Organisation concluded that long-term exposure to air pollution increases deaths from lung, heart and circulatory conditions as well as possible links with a range of other adverse health effects including diabetes, cognitive decline and dementia.
It also said pollution impacted unborn children and on average knocked six months off a person's life.
Zero emissions by 2050
The sale of energy inefficient cars is planned to end in 2040 and by 2050 councils must have converted every car and van on UK roads to be zero emission. Before then there is a plan to invest £600m in the development, manufacture and use of ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020.
Chris Fine, engineering branch manager at Randstad said the ban would be a boon for British business. “This will add a real boost to the UK manufacturing sector not only for the new vehicles but also for designing, building and maintaining the new power stations and wind turbines that are needed as we move into a new era of transport," he said.
"We need to move quickly but strategically if the UK is to retain its prestigious car manufacturing status and to meet the targets that have been set. 2020 is only round the corner and 2040 will be here before we know it!
“This will add a real boost to the UK manufacturing sector not only for the new vehicles but also for designing, building and maintaining the new power stations and wind turbines that are needed as we move into a new era of transport."
Can UK lead the way?
Leading UK manufacturers have already started production of electric and energy-efficient vehicles with Jaguar Land Rover going into production with the new E Pace SUV and Mini in Oxford gearing up for the production of its new electric model.
The price of manufacture will be costly and this will reflect on the consumer, many of whom will end up being priced out of a greener purchase. Companies have already come a long way with developing this technology, although perfecting the range, charge time and price tag is still set to take some time, which again may also put consumers off purchase.
Wanted: more engineers
A question the government’s initiative raises is whether or not we have enough skilled British engineers to make the production of electric cars a profitable reality for the UK. Currently the UK imports many of our engineering workers from overseas in order to support the demand of new and different skills required to make these engines. We may end up struggling with the demand for power electronics, control systems, software and calibration skill sets.
To produce new and innovative engines we must produce new and innovative engineers. If the UK wants to lead the way in manufacturing eco-friendly vehicles it requires more funding, including on university curriculum and for more apprenticeship schemes to be created to train a workforce that can meet the demand for this new technology.