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Electric vehicles charged ahead in 2022 as UK car production slumped

Professional Engineering

Stock image. Electrified vehicles represented almost a third of production in 2022 (Credit: Shutterstock)
Stock image. Electrified vehicles represented almost a third of production in 2022 (Credit: Shutterstock)

Electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids were a rare bright spark in an otherwise difficult year for the UK car industry, new figures for 2022 have shown, representing almost a third of production.

Overall, production declined by 9.8% last year to 775,014 vehicles, according to the latest statistics issued today (26 January) by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). December rounded off a “volatile” year, the organisation said, with output down 17.9% after growth in October and November.

The annual total was 84,561 fewer than 2021, and 40.5% off the 1,303,135 cars made in pre-pandemic 2019, equivalent to a loss of more than half a million cars. 

“The main reasons for the depressed output were the crippling global shortage of semiconductors, which limited the ability to build cars in line with demand; significant structural changes, reflecting a loss of production at two volume manufacturing sites; and the impact of supply chain pauses in China due to Covid lockdowns,” the SMMT announcement said.

Despite these challenges, UK factories turned out a record 234,066 battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid (HEV) electric vehicles, with combined volumes up 4.5% year-on-year to represent 30.2% of all car production. BEV production rose 4.8%, with hybrid volumes up 4.3%. “Boosting output of these vehicles will be critical in the attainment of net zero, for both the UK and major overseas markets,” the announcement said.

Since 2017, the value of BEV, PHEV and HEV exports has risen from £1.3bn to more than £10bn. As a result, electrified vehicles represent 44.7% of the value of all UK car exports, up from a mere 4.1%. The export value of BEVs rose more than 1,500%, from £81.7m to £1.3bn.

The UK’s strength in specialist, luxury and performance carmakers was also underlined in the 2022 figures. Output rose 6.6% to 32,575 units, worth an estimated £3.7bn at factory gate prices, driven by a number of new launches and models in high demand from buyers around the world. “These manufacturers play an important role in the development of advanced automotive technologies such as lightweighting and electrification which, in turn, can help advance wider industry,” the SMMT said.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “These figures reflect just how tough 2022 was for UK car manufacturing, though we still made more electric vehicles than ever before – high value, cutting-edge models, in demand around the world. The potential for this sector to deliver economic growth by building more of these zero-emission models is self-evident; however, we must make the right decisions now. 

“This means shaping a strategy to drive rapid upscaling of UK battery production and the shift to electric vehicles based on the UK automotive sector’s fundamental strengths – a highly skilled and flexible workforce, engineering excellence, technical innovation and productivity levels that are amongst the best in Europe.”

Battery gigafactory firm Britishvolt’s recent collapse into administration is likely to threaten future EV growth, however. Without more homegrown capacity and an industrial strategy, UK production risks falling behind international competitors, according to professors from the University of Birmingham and the University of Bath, writing in The Conversation.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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