Any shift in the 2030 ban of new petrol and diesel cars cannot be a ‘free pass’ to delay EV skills training in the aftermarket sector, Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has said.
His comments come as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this week failed to confirm whether the ban would still go ahead as originally planned, as rumours mounted that any new climate-focused laws that “unfairly impact the public” would be toned down.
The ICE ban, arguably the biggest policy change to hit the automotive industry to date, would mean only hybrid and electric cars would be allowed to be sold from 2030, with sales becoming EV-only from 2035.
Sunak said the UK would “make progress towards net zero” but “in a proportionate and pragmatic way” that “doesn’t unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their lives”, adding: “That’s not what I’m interested in and prepared to do.”
But, Nash responded: “The government has a difficult job to do to balance the UK’s ability to be ready for the 2030 deadline with the hard to ignore environmental threats.
“The lack of a strong strategy to date for UK-based control of the supply chain is certainly raising questions about the vulnerabilities this could create for our economy and infrastructure.”
He added: “However, if the government acknowledges its miscalculation and moves the deadline it is absolutely crucial that this is not seen as a ‘free pass’ to delay investment in infrastructure and training.”
Any delay could be fatal to the sector, the IMI said, with its latest data showing “we are already behind the trajectory needed to have an automotive aftermarket workforce EV-ready”, Nash said.
This data, released as part of the IMI EV Technician Forecast Report, revealed, by the end of Q1 2023, the number of EV trained technicians was 42,400 (representing 18% of all UK technicians) – 10% down on the same period in 2022.
More concerning, the IMI projects that for the second quarter there will be an even more substantial decline of 31% in technicians obtaining EV qualifications compared to Q2 2022.
Another factor is time, the IMI says. As the average age of the UK vehicle parc increases, the time required by technicians working on ICE vehicles also rises, reducing available time for retraining on the new drivetrain.
The significant skills gap that exists across the sector is also forcing employers to park new skills training in order to meet customer demand. Plus, training budgets are being refunnelled into ‘business-as-usual’ operations as employers manage the current economic pressures.
“The consequence could be hugely damaging to the government’s decarbonisation ambitions,” the IMI says as, by 2030, it predicts that the UK will require 107,000 IMI TechSafe qualified technicians to meet the evolving demands of electric vehicles. This figure rises to 139,000 by 2032 – a potential shortfall of 25,000 technicians if the current trends persist.
Nash concluded: “Any change in government strategy over the 2030 deadline must not, therefore mean investment in training can be paused.”