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Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

Volume 637: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2018

The automotive sector deal will ensure that the UK continues to reap the benefits from leading the transition to zero-emission and autonomous vehicles. Last month that drew in £33 million of investment into the UK-based connected and autonomous vehicle programmes, with participation from across the industry.

Jaguar Land Rover recently developed the I-Pace, its first all-electric performance SUV, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) mentioned, the London Electric Vehicle Company has developed the world’s first purpose-built electric taxi. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating those great British manufacturers on the world-leading role they are playing in the sector?

I certainly will. The Jaguar and the London taxi are iconic images, and to see them leading the way into the future is a matter of great delight. I congratulate both companies on choosing to manufacture those vehicles in the UK.

What is the Secretary of State doing to help development in the transition from diesel to electric vehicles? In particular, how is he helping with infrastructure?

We are working very closely with the industry to ensure that as it develops the new technologies of the future, it is able to plan a smooth transition to a world in which all vehicles will be compatible with our climate objectives.

All the new electric vehicles will need batteries, of which lithium is an essential element. Recent discoveries of large deposits of lithium in Cornwall open up the possibility of the UK securing a domestic supply for this vital element. What support can the Secretary of State give to this exciting new emerging sector?

Through our industrial strategy, we have highlighted the potential for new developments in battery storage. If Cornwall can supply the lithium to power that new industry then I am delighted to hear it. I will discuss the possibilities further with my hon. Friend.

At yesterday’s Select Committee visit, mentioned by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey), it became very apparent that the market for electric vehicles is maturing at a much faster rate than many people realise. Is it possible that the ambition of the sector itself is outstripping the ambition of the Government, and should the 2040 target not be brought forward, perhaps even by a decade?

When it comes to the new generation of automotive technology, the ambition of this Government is not outstripped by anyone. We are working very closely—hand in glove—with the industry, through the Automotive Council, to make sure that we are the best placed in the world not only to research the new technologies, but to manufacture them in this country.