Matt Prior: How will supercars stay special in the EV era?


Last week, the European Commission outlined a set of proposals that will bring new car sales rules across its 27 member states broadly into line with the UK’s targets. That means drastically reducing average emissions by 2030, with certain plug-in hybrids allowed to stay on sale until 2035, after which everything sold must be electric.

Almost everything, anyway. What, though, of the niche manufacturer? Those that make only a few sports cars, are beholden to bigger firms for their technology and don’t have enough cash to make the shift early?

Such companies often make cars for which lightness and engagement and effort are key to the appeal – instant classics whose character doesn’t suit current battery-electric technology. The UK, as SMMT boss Mike Hawes noted last week, is “blessed” with them.

Earlier EU proposals said small-volume car makers (meaning those selling 1000 to 10,000 cars per year across the bloc) could apply for an exemption. Under these proposals, they won’t be able to do so as of 2030.

It’s not explicit, but I think this does exempt makers selling fewer than 1000 cars per year. The UK government’s green paper on upcoming vehicle CO2 regulations, also released last week, certainly does exempt “micro manufacturers”.

Cars that go through the UK’s Small Series Type Approval or Individual Vehicle Approval are “out of scope of the regulation” (as are many special-purpose vehicles).

Zero tailpipe emissions is a tech shift, then, that a niche manufacturer can decide to take on – Ariel says “the thought of an e-Ariel doesn’t frighten us at all” – but won’t be forced to. (Although I imagine that most will, at their own pace, once the tech is light enough and engines are scarcer.)

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