Inventing electric cars is easy – now UK needs to reshape itself

The UK faces a challenge to prepare for a new automotive revolution, with electric vehicles set to overtake petrol ones from 2040.

Electric car sales are expected to overtake petrol by 2040

When the automotive revolution kicked off at the beginning of the 20th century, the dominant technology wasn’t petrol – it was electric.

The cars were slow, with a top speed of around 20mph, but – unlike petrol – they didn’t smell, they didn’t need gears and they didn’t need starting with a hand crank.

For pottering around the city, they were unbeatable.

However, by the 1920s, they were in decline. Petrol became much cheaper and the road network expanded, meaning the limited range of electric cars became a problem.

The combustion engine took over – a lead it wouldn’t relinquish until today.

Two companies, aided by governments around the world, have pushed the revival in electric: Toyota and Tesla.

The Toyota Prius made hybrid vehicles mainstream. Then Tesla terrified traditional automakers by fully embracing electric.

The breakthrough was batteries. As smartphones became more popular, the lithium-ion technology they use kept on improving. That could be applied to vehicles too.

Today, all manufacturers are competing to squeeze as much juice as possible from the battery.

The price of buying an electric vehicle will be the same as a petrol one from next year, according to analysts at UBS, and by 2024, one in three cars sold in Europe will be electric.

Morgan Stanley estimates electric car sales will overtake petrol globally by 2040 – meaning the UK Government’s ban on the sale of petrol and diesel isn’t as drastic as they’d like you to think.

But governments worldwide have been crucial to electric’s growth.

California provided nearly $5bn (£3.8bn) in grants to Tesla while, across Europe, electric car sales have been driven by subsidies. When Denmark scrapped them in 2016, sales fell by 60%.

The European Union is also imposing tougher emissions standards from 2019.

Read more: Sky News

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