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The UK’s Automotive Industry is Preparing for Electric Vehicle and Driverless Technology Dominance

November 26, 2019 by Luke James

The UK’s automotive industry is doing far more than its European cousins and is set to lead the way when it comes to EVs and driverless technology.

Protolabs, a UK-based provider of rapid manufacturing of low-volume 3D printed, CNC-machined, sheet metal, and injection-molded custom parts for prototyping and short-run production highlights the UK’s automotive as a potential European leader in its Q3 2019 report. 

Protolabs’ research, which was completed in July, looked at innovation in the automotive sector across Europe and questioned more than 300 senior executives across France, Germany, Italy, and the UK to build a detailed picture of the industry’s overall state. 

In a statement, Matt Hatch of Protolabs said, “We wanted to find out just how European carmakers are facing up to the challenges posed by a period of unprecedented change – and how confident the industry’s leaders are in the future.”


Investing More than its European Counterparts

The report from Protolabs, titled ‘The Innovation Race’, indicates that domestic carmakers and automotive suppliers in the UK are investing more in electrification and alternative power solutions than their European competitors. 

Protolabs’ research shows that 46% of UK automotive firms are plowing significant resources into exploring new possibilities in electric and hybrid vehicles. In contrast, only 34% of automotive firms in Germany are doing the same. The UK is also leading the way in fuel efficiency research too, with 34% of firms taking new approaches to it and recognizing the potential in developing autonomous vehicles. 

The strong focus of UK firms towards accelerating the electrification of vehicles and discovering new powertrain solutions will provide them with a key competitive advantage. This is great news for UK firms that are growing increasingly wary of the changing competitor landscape. 52% of automakers expect the automotive market to be disrupted by an external rival such as Google, Waymo, or Zoox. 


A Protolabs facility

A Protolabs facility. Image Credit: Protolabs.


Firms Are Also Trying to Tackle Climate Change

Research also highlights that the industry is making strides to tackle climate change and move closer to carbon neutrality. The automotive sector has made commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by 95g/km by 2020/21, by 15% in 2025, and by 37.5% in 2030. 

Bjoern Klaas, Vice President and Managing Director of Protolabs Europe, said, “You can see from the scale of recent global protests how important protecting our environment is and it is reassuring to see the automotive industry is meeting the challenge head-on.”

"The UK, in particular, is outstripping the rest of its European rivals in its efforts to develop and identify new powertrain solutions that deliver better fuel efficiency yet retain the same driving performance motorists expect.”

It’s not all good news, though. Protolabs’ report states that a major car brand will “cease to exist” within the next few years following an automotive trade war and a period of “extreme change” within the industry. By making this assertion, Protolabs is clearly warning automakers that they must adapt to current developments and changes in order to survive. 

Klaas ended his statement by saying: “We are living in a period of unprecedented change, but with change comes opportunity and if the UK continues to seize the electrification and new powertrain agenda then it could become one of the world leaders in this technology.”

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