Electric cars worth £51bn to UK economy ‘if Government acts now’

The UK Government will lose out on major economic benefits unless it makes a significant investment in upgrading the nation's electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and upskilling the motor industry, an independent academic report will warn this week.

The report, commissioned by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), concludes that the overall economic and social benefit of EVs, connected and autonomous vehicles could be in the region of £51bn per year by 2030, with the potential for 320,000 newly-created industry jobs.

Researchers will present the report’s findings to a cross-party group of MPs on Wednesday (13 April), calling on the Government to focus on protecting the economic growth of the motor industry by acting strategically to make charging low emission cars more convenient for drivers, and ensuring that there are enough skilled technicians to service and repair them.

Loughborough University professor Jim Saker, who will host Wednesday’s Parliamentary meeting, 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.”

Mind the gap

Professor Saker will propose a number of initiatives the Government could implement to improve the EV economy and reduce safety concerns across the sector. These include a commitment to supporting the installation of 1,250 hydrogen refuelling stations across the UK, and making it illegal for unregistered technicians to work on EV and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) from 2016.

With 81% of independent garages reportedly struggling to recruit highly skilled technicians, IMI chief executive Steve Nash insists there is an urgent need for a higher qualified workforce to avoid further skills shortages across the sector.

Nash said: “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.”

Tesla Model 3

The report arrives during an exciting period for the EV industry. Last week, business magnate Elon Musk’s SolarCity announced that its customers recently generated 8GWh of electricity production in a single day – enough energy to charge every Tesla vehicle in the world.

That announcement came shortly after Tesla unveiled its highly-anticipated ‘affordable’ electric car. The Tesla Model 3 will start at £24,423 and have a range of at least 215 miles per charge, as the company focuses its business strategy on bringing EVs into the mass market. Following the launch, Tesla chief executive Musk revealed that pre-orders for the Model 3 had exceeded 276,000 in fewer than three days.

George Ogleby

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