The UK’s 2035 ban on ICE vehicles – ambitious or unrealistic?

Chris Mapp of FMC Auto Innovation
Chris Mapp, Director and FMC Auto Innovation Team Leader at FMC Global Talent

Earlier this year the UK government announced that they were bringing the ban on selling petrol, diesel and hybrid cars forward to 2035, 5 years sooner than their initial plan for the country to go electric.

We wrote about the UK’s plans for electrification, alongside some other countries’ commitments, last year. Even then, we thought that the plan to get rid of ICE engines by 2040 was ambitious. Now, with five years less to do it, a global pandemic interfering, and hybrids included in the ban, it’s even more ambitious than before!

So how are they going to do it? From developing EVs to getting people to buy them, here’s how the UK can ensure they meet their deadline.

The UK government needs to invest in:

1. Charging points

Currently, the infrastructure available in the UK is not ready to cope with mass EV ownership. The government need to invest heavily into getting more and more charge-points into the UK to make EV ownership a realistic prospect for most of the population.

Currently there are around 11,000 EV charging stations in the UK. This is a step in the right direction as this means there are currently more electric charge points than there are petrol stations across the country. Last year the government also earmarked an extra £2.5 million for charge-points on residential streets.

There’s also the small matter of powering the charge-points themselves. The increased demand on the national grid will need to be powered by renewable energy sources, or risk defeating the object of going electric. This may require investment into more solar and wind-powered options. The UK needs to invest in this and do so quickly to achieve their 2035 goal.   

2. Battery technologies

Many companies and educational institutions in the UK are pioneering battery technology research. From solid-state batteries to lithium-air batteries, there are a few options to power an electric car! Investment in these technologies is key. One of the main examples of this investment is the £274 million that the UK government have put into the Faraday Challenge which pushes collaboration between businesses and academia to innovate around battery technology.

Not only will this investment allow other battery options to be explored, it will also help to improve the design of batteries to allow longer lifespans, meaning that they require less frequent charging.

Investment in the battery supply chain also has additional benefits for the UK. Creating gigafactories based in the UK will keep costs down for OEMs by shortening supply chains  and will hopefully create a more attractive environment for EV production in the UK.

3. Education

There’s a perception in the UK that charging points are hard to come by. Couple this with range anxiety and you’ve got a recipe for EV avoidance. Although these perceptions are by no means true, it is crucial that the UK government dispels these myths to help establish the EV market.

Further to this, education around the benefits of electric car ownership also needs to increase so that the general public have more confidence in EVs and fewer misconceptions about them. It is incredibly easy to charge an electric car at home, they have no emissions, and fuel costs are dramatically lower. Communicating these benefits is key to promoting mass EV ownership.

4. Incentives

It’s all well and good having the technology and the infrastructure to make electric vehicles, but that’s all a little pointless if people aren’t buying them.

A key step towards electrification is to incentivise the buying of electric vehicles. In 2019 only 1.6% of new cars sold were electric, so this is crucial to that 2035 goal.

With any ‘new’ technology, people are always cautious so providing incentives to get them on board is a tried and tested way of encouraging people to go electric. The UK PiCG offers a discount on low and zero-emissions cars (in some cases up to 35% of the cost price can be given in the form of grant). Plus, it’s valid on any brand, so whether you want an Audi, a Nissan or a Tesla there’s something there for everyone.

There is also the concern that there may be a ‘boom in petrol or diesel sales in 2034, as motorists prepare to buy combustion engines for the final time’ so having a strong incentive scheme for EVs could help to avoid this.

The impact of COVID-19 on the 2035 target

Whilst 2020 was tipped to be the ‘year of EVs’, unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, and with it, the production of EVs and the demand for new cars. However, battery electric car sales have continued to rise despite the blow to global car sales. There has also been a push to move away from ‘dirty’ technologies such as ICE vehicles and towards ‘clean’ technologies, like BEVs, hydrogen and biofuels. 

Attitudes have naturally changed due to the impact of the global pandemic, from people being increasingly cautious of public transport, to increased social awareness of environmental issues stemming from the pandemic. All of these factors may have led to an increase in the amount of people making the switch to electric. 

The general consensus amongst people operating in the automotive and EV spaces is that COVID is actually likely to accelerate the shift towards electric, thereby potentially making the target more achievable than before.  

How will this impact recruitment? 

With the push towards electrification coming from governments around the globe, not just in the UK, this adds a layer of pressure onto EV manufacturers for them to both meet demand and to innovate. This means they need the very best talent on their teams and puts specific skills in high demand.  

Often companies are looking for talent skilled in electrification concepts. Candidates who have previously worked on e-motors, inverters, and other EV technologies are like gold dust in the market. The most sought after skills are focused on: 

  • Electronics hardware and software 
  • Mechanical engineering 
  • Electrical engineering 
  • Power electronics
  • HV powertrain
  • Knowledge of electrochemistry/materials engineering 

OEMs will need to acquire increasing numbers of people with these skills as the production of EVs ups globally. It’s a saturated market, though, so a myriad of industries need to be targeted for these skills including motorsports, aviation, energy, and consumer electronics. 

The UK’s 2035 ban. Ambitious? Definitely. Unrealistic? We don’t think so.

To find out more about how electrification is impacting the whole of the automotive world, take a look at our electrification reports here:

Electrification and the Skills Impact Part 1 | Motorsports

Electrification and the Skills Impact Part 2 | OEMs

If you’re a company developing electric vehicles and are looking to grow your team, FMC Auto Innovation can help. Get in touch with me on for a confidential conversation.