China, a major producer of electric vehicles, or EVs, aims to produce more affordable and technologically advanced vehiles, which in turn helps the global mission to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. The rise in EV purchases, however, has brought forward a growing concern for the security risks that come with using these vehicles on British roads.
The affordability and environmental benefits of EVs are definitely positive, but the impact on large automotive industries can bring many dangers to them. These countries face the risks of de-industrialisation and job losses which could eventually lead to major backlash against decarbonisation policies.
If China is producing most of the cars in the market around the world, an unemployment issue could occur for many different employees in various countries, starting a wave of anti-climate activism.
De-industrialisation refers to the process by which industrial operations in an area or country decline or relocate. Economies need to manage the problems and opportunities presented by de-industrialisation, and in this particular scenario, China becoming the primary producer of EVs that many people are purchasing may result in a drop in production and sales of other vehicles in other countries.
Remote Compromises and Hacking Vulnerabilities
Together with the economic challenges, the rising adoption of EVs brings about security concerns. Much like smartphones, EVs, equipped with advanced features like sensors and cameras, become targets for cyberattacks.
Cybercriminals have found ways to gain control of these vehicles, which has led to recalls of vehicles.
A few years ago, in 2015, we witnessed the cybersecurity of Jeep’s Cherokee 2015 model being compromised as hackers gained remote access to some of these vehicles’ systems, including its transmission, while on a highway in the US. This then led to Fiat Chrysler recalling about 1.4 million vehicles.
China’s involvement in EVs doesn’t just end at local production, as tech giants such as Huawei have been partnering with some of Europe’s big car companies like Mercedes Benz and Audi. The question that lingers is: what might we be trading off for advanced car tech? Data security associated with these partnerships and potential vehicle vulnerabilities stand as growing concerns for many.
A major feature in modern cars is the ability to update their software over the internet. It’s handy, but with that comes vulnerability. Such features potentially open up doors for cyber threats, and bringing certain technologies into the mix could bring spyware in vehicles, for example, and larger concerns over data security.
This isn’t just about the safety of the vehicle and its passengers but it also speaks to broader national security concerns, and this isn’t restricted to just Chinese vehicles.
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China’s national security laws further complicate matters. There is a concern that these laws could force manufacturers to hand over user data, if asked, and this is a concern for many.
One good thing is Chinese markets’ competitiveness. If a company doesn’t keep data safe or has security issues, they could lose to rivals. Companies that don’t prioritise security could find themselves losing out. Buyers are growing more informed, and their demand for secure, technologically advanced vehicles might drive these companies to keep data security in check.
The UK’s Response
There’s a growing concern about these cars in the UK. Some experts, like Professor Jim Saker, have raised alarms. They say that many electric cars could be stopped by external forces if they wanted. The UK can check cars for hidden software, but with so many cars, it’s a big task. There might be a need for stricter rules and more efficient testing processes.
There are also talks about using hydrogen power for cars instead of traditional batteries. Hydrogen fuel cells are a better and greener alternative, primarily because they produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen, leaving water as the only emission.
Besides the clear environmental benefits, adopting hydrogen technology can diversify the energy sources for transportation, reducing the risk of supply chain disruptions associated with battery production, though challenges such as production costs, storage, and infrastructure development remain.
Embracing electric vehicles shouldn’t come at the cost of national security or personal safety. While embracing the electric transition, our paramount goal is to ensure each journey is as safe as it is green.