Skip to main content

Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

Volume 628: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2017

Our industrial strategy capitalises on our strengths as we build the next generation of motor vehicles. On 25 July, we committed £246 million to the Faraday challenge to make Britain a centre for the development of battery storage. The following day, BMW announced that the new electric Mini will be built in Oxford.

As the fourth industrial revolution gathers pace, countries that embrace electric and autonomous vehicles will find it easier to move both people and products, reducing costs and boosting productivity. Will the Secretary of State continue to support such vehicles, as they drive our future economic growth and productivity?

I will indeed and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his championing of those investments. We already have an outstanding reputation in the automotive sector through our leadership and investment in both electric and automated vehicles. Ford, for example, has announced that its European smart mobility research will be based in Britain, and Nissan is conducting its automated vehicle testing in the UK. Our code of practice for testing new technologies is globally recognised as the best in the world. We have a successful motor industry and we want it to be stronger still.

On 20 February, the Secretary of State said that he would release the famous letter to Nissan

“when it is no longer commercially confidential”. —[Official Report, 20 February 2017; Vol. 621, c. 784.]

Will he explain whether that will be in 2017, 2018, 2019, or sometime thereafter?

Yes, I will release the letter. The hon. Gentleman reminds us of the fact that the investment Nissan is making in Sunderland has secured 7,000 jobs on that site and nearly 50,000 jobs in the supply chain. It was a very welcome investment. We need to respect Nissan’s confidentiality, but I have made a commitment to the House that, when it no longer applies, I will certainly release the letter.

What discussions is the Secretary of State having with manufacturers on prolonging battery life as rapidly as possible, and on rolling out electricity charging points to ensure the existing points are working and not broken down, and that they become more readily available throughout the UK?

We are gaining international respect and attention, including from some of companies that have been mentioned, for our commitment to research and development of battery storage. That is why, through our industrial strategy, the Faraday challenge to make us the best in the world in battery storage is so important. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to mention charging points. We want to make it possible for people to plug in and charge their cars. We have over 11,000 publicly accessible charge points. That is the largest network in Europe, and we want to expand it further.