Decarbonisation through modernisation: The UK’s EV transition as a vehicle for industrial change

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As the transport sector remains the only sector in the United Kingdom (UK) in which emissions continue to rise, electric vehicles (EVs) have become an increasingly prominent political subject. This article finds that far from simply a low carbon transition, the EV transition in the UK is a means to address the attendant frailties of its economic model. Drawing upon an original empirical dataset of 33 interviews alongside a document analysis, I show that decarbonising the UK automobile sector is tied to a process of industrial and economic modernisation. These findings reveal the contested features of the transition, as the desire to capitalise on broader shifts in the global automobile market is brought into opposition with Britain’s financialised political economy. Finally, it shows that the modernisation tenet of Ecological Modernisation, which has come to be routinely neglected in the literature, should be revisited in the context of Brexit, COVID-19 and economic crises.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCompetition and Change
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2023


  • Electric vehicles
  • United Kingdom
  • decarbonisation
  • net zero


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