HomeInfraUK U-turn on 2030 must not impact EV upskilling and investment in...

UK U-turn on 2030 must not impact EV upskilling and investment in infrastructure

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The UK government’s decision to extend the timeline for the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, should be used productively by the industry to ensure the skills and infrastructure are adequate for the electric car revolution.

The Independent Garage Association (IGA) said it welcomed the “much-needed” interval which would allow the industry to address the challenges related to electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and affordability, particularly in the face of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Stuart James, IGA chief executive, said: “To ensure that the new 2035 is achieved, there needs to be government support not only for the required infrastructure, but also for upskilling of staff across the independent automotive sector, in order to provide consumers with the confidence that making the change to electric vehicles, is backed up with an accessible network of local, competent garages to meet the changes in their motoring needs.”

“The announcement represents a reality check that the infrastructure required to support wholesale EV adoption in the UK is currently lagging behind where it would need to be, had the 2030 ban remained in place.”

Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) responding to the government’s shift of the 2030 ban on the sale of new ICE vehicles to 2035 said the announcement “whilst not surprising”, significantly under-estimated the hard work and commitment those in the automotive sector had already shown to meet the 2030 target.

“There’s now a serious risk that businesses and individuals will take their foot off the pedal and the great success the IMI has had in engaging the industry to commit to investment in EV skills will lose momentum,” he warned. “The deadline shift also demonstrates a distinct lack of understanding of the pressures a multi-technology vehicle parc places on the automotive workforce.

“The upskilling that has already taken place has come at a financial strain which businesses and individuals have justified because of the expected increased EV adoption. Even if EV uptake slows over the next few years, there will still need to be a concerted focus on upskilling to meet the needs of the growing parc as well as other emerging technologies such as connected and autonomous.”

However, with the ICE vehicle parc not diminishing as had been previously expected, he noted that the skills to work on petrol and diesel vehicles will also need to be maintained. 

“This multi-technology pressure could undermine access to competent and fairly priced aftermarket services as a whole, not only threatening road safety in general but hitting those struggling with cost of living pressures hardest – the very group the government’s announcement is allegedly designed to help.”

He added that it was now crucial that the shift to 2035 is not seen as a ‘free pass’ to delay investment in infrastructure and training. “Therefore,” he said, “having made this change, the government must now understand the multiple challenges the sector faces and provide the right support to ensure the UK economy and wider society can continue to rely on the automotive sector.”

Richard Peberdy, UK head of automotive for KPMG, agreed, saying the 2030 deadline encouraged car manufacturers to invest billions of pounds in new electric vehicles, their control systems and the battery technology and production required to support them.  “At the same time, they are having to support and fund a declining supply chain for internal combustion engine vehicles, which will become more costly and complex to secure over time.”

Commenting on the decision to push back the EV switch, Simon King, interim CEO of the Autotech Group said for several years his business had been highlighting the need for greater education and training.

“EV training isn’t purely for the vehicle technicians who are responsible for repairing and maintaining them, but anyone who works or operates them, including the customer who drives their new EV off the forecourt, needs educating. Not only for their safety, but to understand how to drive them efficiently.”

King said fleet companies, along with local authorities and the emergency services have invested heavily in electrification and will undoubtedly continue to build on this electric future while vehicle manufacturers, who have made firm commitments on when they will move to fully zero-emissions cars, have said they will not deter from these planned dates.

“Therefore, despite the government moving its climate commitments, the aftermarket cannot afford to become complacent. The fact is there are more electric vehicles on the road today than there are people trained to work on them. It is imperative that we continue pushing forward with plans to upskill technicians and educate the wider public on EV’s – this will not only lead to a stronger automotive sector but ensure that everyone has the right knowledge to make the transition safely and successfully.”

The National Body Repair Association (NBRA) also expressed its concerns, suggesting specific financial support, such as subsidies or grants, for its members who have already begun transitioning to EV-focused business models.

Wayne Mason-Drust, NBRA board member said: “The path to achieving net-zero emissions is undeniably urgent, but it is crucial to navigate this journey without damaging the very businesses that are key to making this transition successful. Our members, many of whom have already invested substantially in preparing for the 2030 deadline, now face uncertainty and potential financial setbacks.

“By shifting the goalposts, the government puts at risk the investments made by businesses in our sector who took early steps to adapt to a greener automotive landscape. These businesses now face an extended period before they can see a return on their investment, raising questions about the economic viability of their proactive efforts.

Mason-Drust concluded: “Achieving net-zero emissions remains an imperative, but it is crucial to make this transition in a way that supports, rather than undermines, the businesses actively involved in this change.”

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents car and commercial retailers across the UK added that although its members had expressed doubt that the UK’s 2030 target was achievable within the existing EV incentive framework, its members would continue to invest heavily in helping the UK achieve this transition by training their staff to effectively sell, service and repair electric vehicles and help consumers find the right deal for their needs through schemes such as NFDA’s Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA).

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