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EV skills gap could hamper 2030 ambitions

The pressure to get fleet and private drivers into electric and hybrid vehicles may not be matched by the ability of the servicing, maintenance and repair (SMR) sector to support these vehicles.

Only 6.5% of the automotive sector was EV-ready as of June 2021, according to IMI data

That’s according to the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), which reveals that as of June 2021, only 6.5% of the automotive sector was EV-ready.

Yet according to latest SMMT data, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) accounted for more than one in 10 (10.7%) new car registrations in June, followed by 8.7% for traditional hybrids and 6.5% for plug-in-hybrids.

The IMI said the gaping chasm in the proportion of the automotive sector skilled to work on electric vehicles could present a serious risk to consumer confidence in wide-scale adoption of zero emission motoring.

CEO Steve Nash commented: “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 institute added that 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.

It’s calling for part of the £12bn investment promised by the Prime Minister for the 10-point plan for a green industry revolution to be put towards skills training.

The IMI TechSafe standards, endorsed by OZEV at the end of 2019, are designed to promote EV training qualifications across the industry and also mean that electric vehicle users can access the IMI Professional Register to check the electric vehicle technical competencies of technicians at their local garage.

But the new IMI data shows that the sector is currently a long way off achieving a critical mass of technicians qualified.

It’s an issue that IMI head of business development Steve Scofield said that fleets also need to be aware of – and they need to have a very clear policy about how SMR should be handled for these vehicles.

Scofield said: “There can’t be a default to the same technician workforce used for petrol and diesel unless a fleet manager has clear indication that accredited EV training has been completed. And with only 6.5% of the whole automotive sector currently qualified to work on electric vehicles this would be a big assumption to make.

“The IMI is currently working with training centres and businesses right across the industry to support the uplift in EV accredited technicians that is necessary to match the government’s 2030 deadline. And there’s no question that the fleet sector is key to this. Representing such a large proportion of the UK car parc, people working in the fleet SMR are probably at the forefront of the upskilling challenge.”

Scofield added that the IMI believes that mandating qualification achievement and IMI TechSafe recognition for both electric vehicle and ADAS contracts is essential.

“It will provide fleet operators with the essential confidence as well as necessary regulatory protection that those working on their electric vehicles have the right competencies to avoid any risk of injury or death.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.

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