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EVs being forced on drivers, says Sir Jim Ratcliffe – as he unveils electric 4x4

Sir Jim Ratcliffe with Ineos Fusilier 4x4
Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Fusilier 4x4 will be battery-powered, but one model will have a small petrol engine - Patrik Lundin

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has accused British and European governments of forcing electric cars “down the consumer’s throat”, as he prepares to sell a new battery-powered 4x4 that will have a backup petrol engine.

Speaking at an event in London, the billionaire behind Ineos and Manchester United warned electric vehicles (EVs) still have major drawbacks and argued carmakers should not be forced to sell them exclusively.

Sir Jim added that current European regulations effectively force companies like his to develop EVs, adding that they “can’t survive” without launching one.

He said it should be up to motorists to decide which technology triumphs, adding that continuing innovation in Formula 1 was proof that the internal combustion engine was “not at the end of the road yet”.

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The 71-year-old, who is Britain’s second-richest person, told a press conference: “Europe is saying ‘You’ll all drive in electric vehicles and we’ll can the combustion engine’, whereas America is saying… ‘there probably isn’t one solution for all purposes’.

“I think ultimately, they can’t force a solution down the consumer’s throat that the consumer rejects. They need to find a solution which is acceptable to people.”

“I think the consumer should have a choice. And it’s clear at the moment that consumers are speaking with their feet, aren’t they? They’re not buying electric cars.”

Sir Jim said EVs struggled on long journeys outside of cities where charging points are less common. He said: “A lot of the population do want to go on a long journey, they don’t want range anxiety.

“So the direction we are going is to have two offerings. We’ll have an electric vehicle, which I think will be very capable. But my personal, strong preference is the same electric vehicle but with a range extender under the bonnet.”

His comments came as Ineos Automotive, the car division of the billionaire’s sprawling empire, unveiled the new Fusilier 4x4.

One version of the new vehicle will be battery-powered only, while a second will be equipped with a small petrol engine that can switch on and power a generator on long journeys, aimed at dispelling so-called EV range anxiety.

The battery version of the Fusilier will have a range of at least 400 kilometres (248 miles), according to Ineos, while the range-extender version will have a battery range of around 270 kilometres that will be supplemented by the petrol motor.

His comments come as debate rages in the car industry about how to reduce emissions by keeping prices low and allowing consumers to recharge or refuel quickly.

In the UK, the zero emissions mandate is forcing big carmakers to ratchet up sales of EVs in the coming decade, from 22pc of sales this year to 80pc by 2030.

Similar rules in Europe ban carmakers from selling cars that create tailpipe carbon emissions from 2035, with the exception of those that run on synthetic fuels.

While some car makers are planning EV-only lineups in future, others such as Toyota have argued that multiple types of cars – including hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles – will still have a place in the future.

Sir Jim argued that electric cars were currently better suited to being used as runarounds in urban areas, noting that he currently drives an electric Smart car when at home in Monaco.

A UK Government spokesman said: “Our pragmatic, world-leading approach will put us on a pathway to ensuring that by 2035, new cars and vans will be zero emissions at the exhaust, all while supporting growth and safeguarding skilled jobs in the UK’s car industry.

“This is on top of more than £2bn we’ve already spent on the switch to electric, which has supported putting over a million electric vehicles on our roads and a 46pc increase in the number of charge points since this time last year.”