Innovation must be a driving force behind regenerating the UK economy post-Covid. Focused localism with well-chosen projects gives people a chance to get involved, feel a sense of ownership and use their capabilities to rebuild the country.
We make the case for using electric car manufacture to boost local economies.
Construction is relatively simpler and cheaper than for conventional internal combustion engines and much depends on software.
Alternatives to models costing upwards of £25,000 form the big names in the motor industry should broaden the market. Simplicity is an attractive option if it has a price tag of £5,000. After all, Robin Reliants held a decent market share once upon a time. Add the bonus of supporting your local economy and a decent marketing campaign, and the market can be changed utterly.
Why choose electric cars as a project for localism?
Electric cars will be the norm by 2030. The push to lower carbon emissions will drive the acceleration of technology, manufacturing and uptake. It’s already happening in China where investment bank JP Morgan reports that the rise of mini-electric vehicles with smaller battery packs designed for short-range driving (around 100-150 km) has helped boost their popularity with prices starting at around £4,000. Or even cheaper as we show later on.
Electric cars are controlled by software – can local garages have a role to play?
Transport can be as simple as an electric scooter these days. If we can get away from wanting “something nice” like a Mercedes, and appreciate the massive cost savings of smaller, cheaper vehicles, then the range of available models will grow to supply the market.
Garages have to pay for access to Tesla cars technology. Create a framework that allows garages to access the knowledge – not just new cars. This is how we can we help the garages to survive and thrive rather than transferring all that money to large corporations. Hold it locally.
Garages can create their own systems for maintenance, software to control features, and even produce their own models – something that is not very feasible right now with internal combustion engines.
The public invests locally through government and the industry is there for many years. This could be an arm of localism, which we explore later. Basically hold investment locally, building businesses and generating jobs.
You can buy an electric car for under £1,000
This proves that electric cars are simpler to construct than internal combustion engine vehicles. Here is a real life report from America. This individual saw an electric car advertised on AliBaba and bought it. This video shows him unpacking it and his initial very positive reaction.
The BBC reports on a vary popular make of electric car that has overtaken Tesla sales in China:
The point is that electric cars are relatively simple to manufacture. They don’t need massive plants like the Nissan factory in Washington, near Sunderland. They are very adaptable to a sort of high-tech cottage industry.
How electric cars work & mechanic retraining
As this good explanatory article says, a normal car “with its fuel lines, exhaust pipes, coolant hoses and intake manifold, tends to look like a plumbing project. An electric car is definitely a wiring project.” In fact, most traditional combustion engine mechanics don’t have the skills to service electric cars. They would be at risk of electrocution if they tried.
As the Sunday Times points out, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), the industry body that oversees training and standards across the UK’s garage network, says garage staff should receive specific training in working on so-called eco cars, and new laws are needed to protect mechanics from their high-voltage electrical systems.
Batteries – the crucial component
Battery technology is almost at the point where the capacity / weight / cost factors make mass production feasible, thus enabling the industry. The pic shows Tesla’s Nevada battery gigafactory and another even bigger one is being built in Berlin. These are intended for Tesla vehicles.
Coventry City Council are in talks to build a battery gigafactory, which will boost electric car manufacture in the UK. It would appear that preparation for the switch to electric cars is underway.
Rapid recharging stations are beginning to proliferate too, although not yet to the extent that would encourage people to by a pure electric car.
It’s fair to say that battery technology and supply will soon not be a blocker for car manufacturers.
Elon Musk has the power to make things happen
As owner of electric car manufacturer, Tesla, we can consider him both an expert in this field and somebody who can instigate massive change.
The world’s richest man claims to be a socialist, although it appears not in the true conventional sense. For example, his factories are not unionised. However, he is an exceedingly intelligent businessman, a calculated risk taker and has more determination and ability to achieve than most entrepreneurs.
See him recently interviewed by popular American podcaster, comedian, commentator and challenger of sacred cows – Joe Rogan.
A project of this breath might well be something he would enjoy getting his teeth into as a driving force, if only for the significant PR value for his brand. He could stimulate the entire market and localism system here in the UK
Localism in action – Preston’s guerrilla localism campaign
Wikipedia defines it as, “Generally, localism supports local production and consumption of goods, local control of government, and promotion of local history, local culture and local identity. Localism can be contrasted with regionalism and centralized government, with its opposite being found in the unitary state.”
The thrust of it was enshrined in law by the Localism Act 2011. But forget about politics – on the ground it’s all about spending public money locally and a mindset for buying local where possible. Aditya Chakrabortty, the Guardian newspaper’s best journalist in our opinion and its senior economic commentator, ran a series of articles about it that inspired many.
The first major win for popular Localism was in Preston, a run-down city that turned its fortunes around by focussed redirection of its public spend to benefit local companies rather than multinational corporations.
The single biggest hurdle for all projects like this is funding. This is why a major player willing to lead a movement has the power to enthuse people and act as a rallying focal point. Fame also brings media attention and publicity.
Going green is a baby steps process
Electricity is far from being green but that too is changing gradually. The massive wind farms now being built 70 miles offshore in the North Sea will begin to contribute to lessening our dependency on fossil fuels.
Combine that with zero-emission cars and we will be making a very positive contribution to saving our planet.
Add a layer of local pride and support for new jobs – the result could be astounding.