By Steve Nash, CEO of the Institue of the Motor Industry (IMI)
There is much speculation that the government is planning to move forward the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2030, with hybrids given a reprieve to 2035.
I admire the confidence of those feeding this speculation – apparently there are assurances that the infrastructure will be ready by this date.
But there is so much more to consider than simply the charging infrastructure.
Indeed, in some ways the charging network issue is relatively simple to resolve... It just needs investment, and rather a lot of it!
However, we won’t get the network we need if the government leaves it largely to private businesses to solve the problem, as it has done up to now.
The investments made by our government are paltry compared to other countries.
But I worry that a much bigger piece of the jigsaw has been forgotten.
What about the technicians to service and repair this new automotive technology which, in turn, will give motorists the essential confidence they need?
The automotive sector has seen – much like many other industries – massive falls in sales over the last 6 months as a result of Covid-19.
Right now, therefore, the appetite for recruitment and training is low as recent data attests.
Yet training of the existing workforce on these new drivetrains, as well as recruitment of the next generation of workers is vital.
The latest Department for Education (DoE) data shows that apprenticeship starts in the Automotive sector in July 2020 fell by 59% compared to the same period in 2019.
And the latest ONS data shows that approximately 2% of jobs in the sector have been made permanently redundant with potentially an additional 7,200 planned before the end of September.
Further underlying the financial pressures facing the automotive sector, over half (56%) stated that Covid-19 had increased the risk of insolvency of their business; an increase of 3% since last reporting.
Against this backdrop, and with so much of the country waiting to hear if new restrictions may impact business income further, does it really make sense to heap the pressure on an already beleaguered sector?
As we advance towards a zero-emission future, the technology that technicians will be coming into contact with is changing – resulting in high voltage electrics becoming commonplace.
Motorists driving electrified vehicles want to know that they are handing over their vehicle to someone who has the right skills.
Those who aren’t properly trained or equipped to work on electrified vehicles would be risking serious injury or potentially fatal shock.
The IMI TechSafe standards, endorsed by OLEV at the end of 2019, mean that electrified vehicle users can access the IMI Professional Register to check the electric vehicle technical competencies of technicians at their local garage.
This is a crucial step in giving car buyers confidence that their electric vehicle can be serviced, maintained and repaired by a garage with the right skills – and that removes a key barrier to EV adoption.
But it’s also important that government looks at investment in skills training to support a sector that is currently severely depleted by Covid-19, to ensure its zero emissions goals can be achieved.