04 June, 2019

Opportunities for UK automotive in the switch to electrification

Opportunities in the automotive supply chain from the shift to vehicle electrification was the focus of debate at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Open Forum today (4 June).

The event saw vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and innovators come together to discuss key issues affecting the automotive industry. The forum took place on the sidelines of Automechanika Birmingham, an exhibition showcasing the UK’s parts supply industry.

Delegates heard from experts at Bosch, the Faraday Institution, Unipart, Yasa Motors and Autocraft Solutions, while McLaren Automotive delivered the keynote address. The manufacturer’s Commercial Director (Supply Chain), Daniel Scaglione, spoke about the company’s Track25 business and sourcing strategy and its investment in advanced materials to reduce overall vehicle weight. This goes hand-in-hand with McLaren’s move to 100% hybrid sportscars and supercars by 2024.

Leading the way

The UK is well placed to be a global leader in the development of the next generation of battery technology, thanks to close collaboration between industry, adjacent sectors and Government. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, recently announced a £28 million (€32 million) investment to support the development of battery technology at the new Coventry Battery Industrialisation Centre, targeted as a centre of excellence and creating highly skilled jobs and delivering practical training to workers.

The commitment is part of the UK Government Industrial Strategy’s Challenge Fund and comes on top of an initial £80 million (€90 million) investment in the centre. With propulsion systems representing up to 50% of the value of a vehicle, there is a considerable prize for the UK if it is able to position itself at the forefront of developing the next generation of low-carbon powertrains, including electric vehicles (EVs).

EV opportunities

With the shift to vehicle electrification well underway globally, there is a requirement for significant battery manufacturing capacity to support future EV output. Brexit notwithstanding, a forecast for EV production in the UK alone provides enough demand for approximately eight battery giga-factories by 2040.

‘The UK already makes some of the best-selling electric cars and taxis on the market and industry is leading the charge to vehicle electrification, investing in new technology to create ever more advanced and efficient models,’ said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.

‘The future opportunities for suppliers and manufacturers from this seismic shift are dramatic, and the UK is well placed to benefit so long as the right economic and political conditions exist. Events such as SMMT Open Forum are also essential to help create new opportunities for growth,’ Hawes added.

Ruth Nic Aoidh, executive director, commercial and legal, McLaren Automotive, said, ‘As we move towards 100% hybrid sportscars and supercars by 2024, in parallel it’s clear we also need to develop innovative light-weighting techniques and technologies to counteract the future, heavier powertrains and unlock the vehicle performance our customers expect. As we invest in that area with the intention of winning the new ‘weight race’, we need to work with our supply chain ever more closely to make that vision a reality.’