Electric car industry needs government supercharge

The electric car industry could create 320,000 new UK jobs and generate £51bn a year, but only if the government acts smartly to make the most of this technology.

That is according to a report by professor Jim Saker of Loughborough University, due to be published on Wednesday. In it, he talks about the potential benefits of electric cars on both the economy and jobs, but warns that to take advantage the government needs to invest in charging infrastructure and skills.

Jim said, ‘The UK, by the nature of its size and geography, has a natural advantage in the rapid adoption of vehicles with the new power train technologies, but it is dependent on government investment to pump prime this initiative.

‘Without proper regulation a skills gap will emerge with only a limited number of technicians working in the franchised sector being able to service and repair new technology vehicles.

‘If this trend is found to be true then it is likely that the independent sector of the retail automotive sector will decline. This will mean that the market will fail to open up and develop to the benefit of the UK economy.’

Skills is the bigger issue. Already 81% of independent garages are struggling to recruit skilled technicians while the industry as a whole has a major issue attracting young people. The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) believes the issue will only be exacerbated unless there is a proactive strategy to upskill the UK workforce; at the moment there are only 1,000 technicians in the UK qualified with a Level 4 in Electric and Hybrid Car Maintenance.

CEO Steve Nash said, ‘The potential growth for the UK economy is immense, and we are calling on the government to act now in order to reap the financial rewards. To avoid further skills shortages across the sector there is an urgent need for a higher skilled workforce.

‘We have seen growth of more than 20% in alternatively fuelled vehicles with Tesla announcing orders of £7bn in only two days for their new model.

‘It’s vital we take the appropriate steps now if we want to ensure that the UK has the skilled workforce it needs across the whole industry to support and service these vehicles. This will only be possible if appropriate actions are taken with some urgency to avoid a serious and growing skills shortage, most particularly in the non-franchised part of the automotive sector.’

The report, commissioned by the IMI, will be presented to MPs on Wednesday.