Electric Vehicle Workforce Trails Behind New Vehicle Sales

By  //  July 10, 2021

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There’s little doubting at this point that electric vehicles (EVs) represent the future for the automotive industry. While total UK car sales hit a 28-year low in 2020, EV sales rose by 180% year-on-year and made up a further 5% of the overall car market. And with the UK still set to ban sales of non-zero emission cars by 2030, the road ahead looks increasingly clear. 

But while sales figures point to increasingly wide EV adoption, there are reasons not to get overexcited just yet. The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) recently warned of a serious skills deficit that count dent the confidence of consumers who may be currently thinking about making the switch to electric. 

Bumps ahead for the EV market

IMI data has revealed that new EV sales are currently increasing at a rate that is outstripping the upskilling of the UK’s automotive sector workforce. That not only includes the vast number of individual mechanics and garage business across the country, but also car dealerships and accident recovery firms. 

The increasingly urgent need to train and retrain this broad workforce to service the EV market is one that, if left unaddressed, could pose a serious threat to the government’s climate targets. 

The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit is thought to have exacerbated the current skills shortfall. 

Knock-on effects for EV drivers

The IMI’s report could hamper consumer confidence in EVs which, following initial concerns around cost and EV infrastructure, had appeared to be growing rapidly. Consumer choice and support has vastly increased in recent years as more manufacturers have entered and become established in the EV market.  

But if there is a lack of workers with the expertise and resources to service EVs correctly, drivers could be left waiting longer for potentially more expensive repairs. Maintaining most EVs should in theory be no more complex than servicing fossil fuel models, but specialist training is required to ensure workers avoid dangerous electrical shocks. 

There is also an increased risk of EVs being written off if their battery is damaged. Current EV drivers may want to consider taking out additional protection such as car gap insurance as a result.    

The skills shortage also poses potential problems for businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact by adopting EV fleets, be it cars or commercial vans. 

Steve Nash, the IMI’s chief executive officer, has suggested that training should be invested in and ramped up across the sector as a matter of urgency. If it isn’t, the market and the UK’s environmental aims could be set back several years while the EV workforce catches up. 

In the meantime, dealerships, workshops, and bodyshops are under growing pressure to service the booming EV sector.