Facts About Automotive Manufacturing in the UK

The automotive industry in the United Kingdom is one that most people don’t know much about, but they are a dynamic, expanding industry that is currently setting their sights on breaking some manufacturing records in the next three years. Combined with multi-billion pound investments of £5.5 billion over the last eighteen months, the future will see thousands more jobs created, new models introduced, and overall production expanded. More cars being built will not only lead to more jobs in the automotive industry, but also in the industry that services cars – manufacturers of car tyres, garages for servicing cars and showrooms where the cars are sold.

The previous record for number of cars produced was set in 1972 with 1.92 million cars driving out of the UK’s factories. With annual volumes gradually increasing over the past few years they are set to hit the two million mark in 2015. In 2011 the levels were at 1.3 million, so this equates to an increase in production of over 50%. Considering the economic downturn we have been experiencing over the last few years, it is even more exciting to see a United Kingdom industry helping to lead the economic recovery.

The UK has a longstanding motoring heritage, a wealth of expertise in engineering and a flexible, skilled workforce, which combines with some major international investment to make the UK a desirable location for the global automotive industry to set up their factories. Many people aren’t even aware that there are seven volume car manufacturers, three volume commercial vehicle manufacturers, eleven manufacturers of buses and coaches, over 25 niche and specialist vehicle manufacturers and a massive eight Formula One teams along with a large concentration of motorsport firms in an area known as Motorsport Valley. Despite all this, the majority of people probably think that all vehicles are built abroad.

Some more facts you may not be aware of are:

  • The manufacturing sector employs 145,000 people.
  • As a whole, the automotive industry in the UK employs more than 700,000 people in manufacturing, retail and aftermarket sectors including a range of showrooms, garages and car tyre retailers.
  • An average of 1.5 million cars and commercial vehicles are produced annually, and over 2.5 million engines. 80% of the vehicles, and 70% of the engines are then exported.
  • These exports make the UK automotive industry the largest export sector with 11% of total UK exports, generating about £30 billion annual revenue.
  • It is an environmentally friendly industry! They are investing in research and development as well as new technologies to create cleaner, safer, more fuel efficient cars with low carbon footprints.

The History of Battery Electric Vehicles

Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs, predated the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. It was between 1832-1839 that Robert Anderson, a Scottish businessman, invented the first electric carriage and Professor Sibrandus Stratingh from the Netherlands designed the first small-scale electric car which was built by his assistant Christopher Becker in 1835.

The storage battery improved, firstly by Gaston Planté, a French physicist who invented the lead acid cell in 1859 and the first rechargeable battery. Then, in 1881, Camille Faure developed a more efficient and reliable battery which became so successful in the early electric cars. This discovery caused battery electric vehicles to flourish, with France and Great Britain being the first nations to support widespread development of electric vehicles.

Prior to 1900, battery electric vehicles held many speed and distance records, the most notable of which, was the breaking of the 100 km/h (60 mph) speed barrier. It was by Camille Jenatzy on April 29, 1899 in a rocket-shaped vehicle named Jamais Contente (Never Happy) which reached a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph).

During the early 20th Century, battery electric vehicles outsold gasoline powered vehicles and were successfully sold as town cars to upper-class customers. Because of technological limitations, these cars were limited to a top speed of about 32 km/h (20 mph). The cars were marketed as “suitable vehicles for women drivers”. Electric vehicles did not need hand-cranking to start.

One of the downfalls of the battery electric vehicle was the introduction of the electric starter in 1913. It simplified the task of starting an internal combustion engine which was previously difficult and dangerous to start with the crank handle. Another was the mass-produced and relatively cheap Ford Model-T. Finally, the loss of Edisons direct current electric power transmission system. He was battling with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla over their desire to introduce alternating current as the principal electricity distribution. Edison’s direct current was the load for electric motors.

Battery electric vehicles were limited to niche applications. Forklift trucks were battery electric vehicles when introduced in 1923. BEV golf carts which were used as neighborhood electric vehicles and were partially “street legal”. By the late 1930s, the electric automobile industry had disappeared until the invention of the point contact transistor in 1947 which started a new era of electric vehicle.

In 1959 the Henney Kilowatt was introduced and was the world’s first modern transistor-regulated electric car and the predecessor to the more recent battery electric vehicles such as General Motors EV1. Only 47 Henney Kilowatts were produced, 24 being sold as 1959 models and 8 as 1960 models. It is not clear what happened to the other 15 built but it could be possible that they were sold as 1961 or 1962 models. None of the 8 1960 models were sold to the public because of the high manufacturing costs, but were sold to the electric cooperatives who funded the project.

It is estimated that there are between four and eight Henney Kilowatt battery electric vehicles still in existence with at least two of the survivors still driven periodically.

Battery electric vehicles have had issues with high battery costs, with limited travel distances, with charging time and the lifespan of the battery, although advancements in battery technology has addressed many of those problems.

At the present time, controversy reigns over battery electric vehicles. Campaigners, (et al) for BEV’s are accusing three major US automobile manufacturers of deliberately sabotaging BEV efforts through several methods, for instance, failing to market, failing to produce appropriate vehicles, by failing to satisfy demand and using lease-only programs with prohibitions against end of lease purchase.

In their defense, the three major manufacturers they have responded that they only make what the public want and the current trend is that the public doesn’t want battery electric vehicles.

Although we have the technology to manufacture and provide BEVs, one of the biggest downfalls for the prolific production of BEVs is the extortionate cost of replacement batteries. In some cases the cost of replacement batteries can be more than the price of the whole vehicle, especially when buying used battery electric vehicles.

Electric Vehicles

Nowadays people have more varied choices in buying vehicles and cars. As now they have the option of electric vehicles. But what exactly electric vehicle is? In simple words an electric vehicle, or EV, is a vehicle with one or more electric motors for propulsion. Thus, the motion may be provided either by wheels or propellers driven by rotary motors, or in the case of tracked vehicles, by linear motors.

The energy used to propel these kind of can be obtained from various sources such as:

1. From chemical energy stored on the vehicle in on-board batteries: Battery electric vehicle

2. From both an on-board rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) and fueled propulsion power source: hybrid vehicle

3. Generated on-board using a combustion engine, as in a diesel-electric locomotive

4. Generated on-board using a fuel cell: fuel cell vehicle

5. Generated on-board using nuclear energy, on nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers

6. From more esoteric sources such as flywheels, wind and solar

7. From a direct connection to land-based generation plants, as is common in electric trains and trolley buses

Electric vehicles generally use electric motors used to drive vehicles because they can be finely controlled, they deliver power efficiently and they are mechanically very simple. Moreover these electric motors often achieve 90% conversion efficiency over the full range of speeds and power output and can be precisely controlled. Thus it won’t be wrong to say that these electric motors can provide high torque while an electric vehicle is stopped, unlike internal combustion engines, and do not need gears to match power curves.

These days electric vehicle is designed in two ways those are Battery Electric Vehicles and Hybrid vehicles. Battery Electric Vehicles covert chemical energy to electrical energy in batteries; whereas Hybrid vehicles, which convert chemical energy to electrical energy via an internal combustion engine and a generator. However, there is another less established form of electric vehicle which is the ‘plug-in hybrid’. This ‘plug-in hybrid’ attempts to combine the benefits of both these designs and allows the moderate capacity batteries of a hybrid vehicle to be recharged not only from the internal combustion engine and generator.

Electric Vehicles include electric wheelchairs, the Segway HT, electric motorcycles and scooters, motorized bicycles, golf carts and neighborhood electric vehicles. Furthermore some working electric vehicles include heavy work equipment, fork lifts, and numerous other service and support vehicles. Thus, if you are an environment conscious then electric vehicle is best for you.