Consul General Nick Baker

Nick Baker

Consul General, Montreal

Part of UK in Canada

4th August 2016 Montreal, Canada

Electrify your drive

Consul General Nick Baker visits the Institut de recherche d'Hydro-Québec (IREQ)
Consul General Nick Baker visits the Institut de recherche d’Hydro-Québec (IREQ)

“This is astonishingly quiet!”

Those were my first words after my first ride in an electric car earlier this summer.

I took my initial spin in an exhaustless car whilst visiting the Institut de recherche d’Hydro-Québec (IREQ), where Quebec’s power utility is doing ground-breaking research into batteries for electric vehicles. It was a great introduction to this innovative technology just days before the global electric vehicle industry’s major players drove into Montreal for the World Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition (EVS). As one of the industry’s main global events there was a strong turnout of UK companies, and for good reason!

The UK is a global leader in the field. One in four electric vehicles sold in Europe is built in the UK and we are Europe’s biggest market for low-carbon cars. With over 11,000 electric charging points, the UK has more than anywhere else except Japan. And we continue to innovate with trials recently launched for on-the-move charging using Wi-Fi.  To drive this point home, we invited industry leaders, including potential Canadian partners, to a “Meet the Brits” seminar around EVS.

This was also a chance to show how the UK government is committed to zero-emission vehicles.  Over the next 5 years the British government is investing a further £600m in the industry, to add to the £400m invested since 2010.  This new funding will go into everything from charging points to research and development. The hope is it will convince the public and business to “electrify-your-dive”, as a public campaign in the UK puts it. From the UK-built Nissan Leaf to Aston Martin’s electric Rapide E, there should eventually be an electric car for every taste and budget.

Number of electric vehicles registered in the UK since 2010.
Number of electric vehicles registered in the UK since 2010. (Go Ultra Low Campaign)

But this is not just a nice-to-do, the UK has also set a commitment that effectively all cars and vans be zero emission by 2050.  We are doing this to reduce emissions from transport while reducing our dependency on fossil fuels from unstable areas of the World. There is also a big economic prize for getting this right – the UK’s Department for International Trade estimate the commercial opportunities in the electric vehicle supply chain to be worth £4bn between now and 2018.

Innovation is essential to achieve this ambition, and the UK is well-placed being ranked the second most innovative country in the World by Global innovation Index.  Much of the innovation happens at the top of the value chain, and with Formula E being UK-based, it doesn’t get much higher up the chain than that.  The UK’s high value manufacturing catapult is at the forefront of innovation in the sector too and the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) will help to finance the development of low carbon products to enter production.

Of course it is not just the UK that has seen the opportunity in this revolution. Both Quebec and British Columbia are members of the Zero Emission Vehicle Alliance along with the UK. This means you should be hearing even more about zero-emission vehicles in the coming years, and hopefully plenty about how the UK and Canada are working together to make our World cleaner… and a little quieter!

About Nick Baker

Nick took up his appointment as Consul General, Montreal in July 2014. Nick joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2001.