The impact of Covid-19 on the electrification of transport: a UK perspective

Will the pandemic set back the work of the last 5 years another 20 years?

The global economy is facing an unprecedented downturn due to Covid-19. All major researchers and banks are forecasting global GDP drops, and the IMF is predicting the worst recession since the Great Depression. Global stock market performance indicators by sector highlight a 35% year to date drop (at time of writing) in share prices in the automotive sector, which has been hit hard by disruptions to global supply chains, the halt of factories, and the sharp drop in demand caused by the lockdown. The expected economic impact is grim, and the global economy faces some tough challenges in the coming years.

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Historically, the UK’s —and indeed Europe’s— track record at driving decarbonisation and investment in future emission-reduction measures during a recession, when the focus shifts to jobs and economic recovery, has not been good.

If the EU emission targets are changed, if the automotive sector reduces their focus on Electric Vehicle (EV) production, if the Energy industry does not maintain its drive, innovation and investment to decarbonise transport and if Government scales back its spending or subsidies on EVs (like China has been considering) or delays its ambitions—all of which are possible given the challenges of the current crisis—the UK could see a significant trough in EV adoption.

There is a mounting body of breath-taking evidence indicating that nature is the real winner in this crisis. For the first time we as consumers realise what it could feel like to achieve clean air in our cities. Our perspective on working and commuting has changed as we have rapidly adjusted to working from home. This is why industry and government must not lose momentum. Investment into the electrification of transport can become a lever to stimulate our economies and industry back to life.

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