Government’s actions on batteries and fuel cells “do not align” with net zero


The UK’s current trajectory on battery manufacturing is insufficient to support the automotive industry’s transition to electric vehicles and to reach net zero, a report has said.

On 27 July, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published a report into batteries and fuel cells, concluding that the government’s actions do not align with its ambition to reach net zero by 2050. It warned that without further investment in supply chains, raining and research, manufacture of batteries and vehicles could move overseas, with it also expressing concerns over a lack of longer-term strategy, insufficient investment in next-generation batteries and too little support for fuel cells.

In 2027, the Rules of Origin agreement with the EU will mean the battery and 55% of a vehicle’s components must be manufactured in the EU or UK. Without the necessary supply chains, manufacture will move to the EU. Furthermore, the government is committed to ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in 2030, though without a major expansion to production capacity, this target will be undeliverable.

Considering these looming deadlines, the report made a series of recommendations, emphasising the need for “urgent action” to protect the UK’s automotive sector and increase uptake of batteries and fuel cells, including publishing the hydrogen strategy as soon as possible, coordinating it with strategies for transport and buildings.

It outlined how the strategy should provide support for innovation and scale-up for hydrogen technologies, as well as promoting the UK’s expertise to achieve a leading global role. It highlighted fuel cells as the “Cinderella” of UK energy policy, meaning they receive far less attention than they deserve, especially when considering the integral role they stand to play in a proposed hydrogen economy. It recommended research and innovation institutions are established to ensure a future competitive advantage in fuel cells.

Elsewhere, it called for government support to develop UK supply chains and secure raw materials for battery manufacture; action to ensure the sector has enough skilled workers to transition from mechanical to electric technology; accelerating expansion of the public charging network to deliver 325,000 charging points by 2032; and a “rapid decision” to be made on phasing out the sale of new diesel HGVs.

Looking to the longer-term, it recommended increased funding for the development of next-generation batteries, allowing the UK to leapfrog competitors and gain an advantage in future manufacturing of batteries and vehicles, as well as for the scope of battery innovation funding to be widened, including batteries for stationary applications on electricity grids, helping to balance supply and demand while making better use of renewable generation.