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Huge chasm between electric uptake and industry readiness

While hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery-electric vehicle (BEV) sales increase in the UK, a skilled automotive workforce based around the technology is yet to be properly established.

This is the view of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) after analysis of the sector following the release of the latest SMMT registrations data. According to the body, only 6.5% of the industry is EV ready. To make matters worse, this is only a 1.5% increase on the previous IMI workforce analysis, showing a worryingly slow growth. 

The deficit between EV adoption and workforce readiness presents “a serious risk to consumer confidence in wide-scale adoption of zero-emission motoring,” the IMI said. 

“There is no question that government, industry, and consumers are all switching on to the idea of electric motoring”, said Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry. “The growing representation of BEV, PHEV, and HEV in overall new car sales is clear demonstration of that. And the manufacturers and their franchise networks are certainly leading the way in giving customers more support and information as well as upskilling their workforces. 

“However the fact that our analysis shows such a big deficit in the EV skilled workforce should ring alarm bells for government, with its big ambitions for 2030. The recent House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report into the transition to zero-emission vehicles highlighted the need to train and retrain the workforce required to service the new car fleet. But highlighting the need and actually committing to investment in the upskilling are two very different things. And the current skills gap right across the UK economy, exacerbated by a combination of COVID-19 and Brexit is adding a further dimension to the challenge.”

The government is banning the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles in 2030. However, in 2035, it will also ban the sale of hybrid and PHEV vehicles, meaning only BEV and hydrogen fuel-cell (FCEV) models can be sold new. 

However, carmakers are already ramping up the number of BEV models they offer, as they aim to meet strict EU targets on CO2 emissions across their vehicle fleets. This increase in models will lead to an increase in the number of BEV sales in the coming months and years, so the industry, especially the independent aftermarket, needs to be prepared now or risk not only missing out on work, but also lives. 

“The lack of thought given to the training needs of the swathe of businesses and individuals in the automotive ecosystem – from the distribution chain of car dealers to service & repair and even accident recovery – could severely hamper the government’s ambitions,” continued Nash. “If the new parc of electric vehicles cannot be serviced and repaired safely, consumer confidence could be severely undermined. The ramp-up plan for all those who are likely to work on electric vehicles – from service and repair technicians to those working in the roadside recovery and blue light sectors – now must be addressed as a matter of urgency. And that means some of that £12 billion investment promised by the Prime Minister needs to be put towards skills training.”

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