The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced a £400m fund to develop electric car charging infrastructure across the UK, as part of a push towards electric and autonomous vehicles.
“Our future vehicles will be driverless but will be electric first,” said Philip Hammond, who also announced an extra £100m for the Plug-In Car Grant, which subsidises purchases of electric and hybrid vehicles, and £40m to go towards charging research.
He also pledged to change the tax system so that employees who charge their vehicles at work will not be taxed as a benefit in kind. Lack of charging infrastructure and so-called ‘range anxiety’ have been frequently cited as hurdles to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
The support for driverless cars was welcomed by Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica and leader of the DRIVEN consortium which is developing the technology. “This support demonstrates that the government continues to be serious about ensuring the UK is an amazing place to develop autonomous vehicle technology,” said Smith.
“The ground-breaking research being undertaken by us here at Oxbotica and leveraged in our self-driving road trials within DRIVEN would not be possible without funding from central government
The budget also doubled the investment limits for funding available for the Enterprise Investment Scheme, a move that was welcomed by some in the manufacturing industry. “The UK is perfectly placed to lead the world in precision manufacturing,” said Steve Lindsey, CEO and founder of engineering firm Lontra. “We’re already planning our own onshore manufacturing facility following many of the principles set out in the Made Smarter report.
“While Treasury interventions such as Patent Box have provided limited support, we are glad the Chancellor recognises there is far more the government can do to help bring inventions to market and establish our lead in the fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Further announcements include £500m funding towards development of artificial intelligence and 5G broadband, £35m to improve mobile connectivity on trains, and £2.5bn to help develop technology ‘unicorns’ – start-up firms with the potential to grow into companies worth more than $1bn.
Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
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