Jaguar Land Rover has become the latest large carmaker to say it will stop building cars solely powered by internal combustion engines, two months after Volvo pledged to do so.
The UK-based manufacturer promised that all new models from 2020 will be fully electric or hybrid, a year later than Volvo’s target, but a big step beyond its unveiling last November of a single electric concept car.
The plan comes after the Scottish government said it would take action to phase out the need for petrol and diesel cars by 2032, eight years earlier than the UK and French targets of banning sales of new cars with internal combustion engines.
Dr Ralf Speth, JLR’s chief executive, said: “Every new Jaguar Land Rover model line will be electrified from 2020, giving our customers even more choice.”
But Speth also issued a warning over the unintended consequences of the electrification of cars and arrival of autonomous vehicles. The UK’s quarter of a million lorry drivers are at risk from driverless technology, with knock-on effects for the country’s social fabric, he said.
Furthermore, electric cars’ impact on petrol and diesel demand could hurt the budgets of oil-producing countries, Speth said. “Many could be forced to impose substantial spending cuts within the next five years, straining living standards and so creating unrest in areas already suffering from instability,” he added.
Protecting privacy in an era of self-driving cars would be vital, he said. “The very technology that could liberate us, autonomous vehicles, could become a method of insecurity and enslavement … Big freedoms could end up creating the big brother state.”
While Speth has said he sees battery-powered cars as a way to grow its global workforce of 40,000, the emissions of the carmaker’s petrol and diesel vehicles mean it has to go electric to meet stringent new European carbon targets.
Average CO2 emissions from JLR cars were 164g (5.8oz) per kilometre in 2015, well above the UK average of 121.4g. More importantly, they are a long way from the 95g target a manufacturer must hit by 2021.
Prof David Bailey, an automotive expert at Aston University, said the company had been slow to wake up to electric vehicles.
“Jaguar are playing catchup – Tesla has stolen a chunk of their lunch, BMW are way ahead as well,” he said.
“The premium end of things is moving more quickly [towards electrification] in part because electric car costs are higher at the moment because of battery costs, so they can absorb that. It’s also because they are heavily dependent on diesel and the market is moving away from diesel.”
JLR, a subsidiary of the Indian conglomerate Tata, makes no electric cars but plans to begin building production versions of its battery-powered SUV next year.
The I-Pace will have a range of 310 miles (500km), putting it on a par with competition from US-based Tesla and ahead of cheaper options such as the new Nissan Leaf, unveiled on Wednesday.
JLR has indicated that it would like to build an electric car plant in the UK, similar to Nissan’s Sunderland facility, where the Leaf is built, but it is yet to make a concrete commitment.
Such a move would be a significant boost to the British car industry and follow on the heels of BMW, which in July pledged to build its electric Mini in Oxford. Jaguar sold more than 583,000 cars in 136 countries last year.
Industry watchers had spotted earlier this year that the company had trademarked a series of car names
Beyond the I-Pace, the electric vehicles in JLR’s range will include an updated version of its classic E-Type and a driverless concept car known as the Future-Type, which has a steering wheel that talks to you.
But Speth told an audience in London that it could not pursue its electric ambitions alone, questioning whether the government was doing enough on infrastructure. “Where is the network of charging points that they [electric cars] will require to function? Indeed, where is the power grid that will allow us to build them?” he said.
Ministers on Thursday announced the launch of a new industry- and -government-backed brand to develop driverless vehicles in the UK. The Meridian hub will coordinate research and development into the technology, paid for by carmakers and £100m of public funding.
Governments keen to tackle air pollution and cut carbon emissions are driving electric car production, alongside falling battery prices.
However, a report found that on average, 1.7% of carmakers’ sales were electric vehicles, compared with their own target of 3.6%.