Whether Britain will have enough “depends on how quickly we can scale the supply chain here in the UK,” said Matt Windle, director of sports car manufacturer Lotus, owned by Geely – one of China’s largest car companies.
About three quarters of automotive lithium batteries are made in China, benefiting Lotus, although tariff rules make importing batteries an expensive option, as is their weight.
“To support the vital UK automotive sector and preserve our all-important Britishness, our preference will be for UK sources,” said Windle.
Smaller companies will likely need an equally larger parent company or sponsor to make the leap to electric and scale up enough to meet demand, Palmer said.
While Mini and Rolls-Royce can rely on owner BMW’s buying and borrowing power, independent companies such as McLaren and Aston Martin may struggle to raise the billions of pounds needed for a battery factory, despite the wealth of their backers.
Other countries have faced the same predicament, Palmer says, and can offer a blueprint of success.
“Fifteen years ago, China said we can’t beat the West in internal combustion technology, so let’s black out and lead the way in electrification,” he says. “It’s allowed them to essentially skip the West.”
China rose from the 14th largest car producer in 2000 – where Britain is currently languishing – to the top spot today, with production increasing from 600,000 vehicles to nearly 20 million last year.
To move the UK forward faster and attract investment from big companies, experts argue it needs a start-up culture similar to that in California, which has helped companies like Tesla to thrive.
However, the benefits include world-class research at universities, the potential for abundant cheap wind energy and the skills to develop hydrogen-based carbon-free cars.
A BEIS spokesperson said: “The UK remains one of the best locations in the world for car production through a major £850 million investment program from the government to electrify our supply chain, create jobs and secure a competitive future for the sector. set.”
“If you’re concerned about an industrial segment in the UK, you need to support it, and you need to support it well,” said Palmer.
Britain’s success in ramping up production and becoming a leader in making eco-friendly cars ultimately depends on how much manufacturers and the government are willing to invest.