With the government ban on petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2030 ever on our minds, the UK finds itself in a position where it must prioritise EV-ready mechanics, public charging points and national grid protection.
Building knowledge and skillset
The Institute of Motor Industry (IMI) is warning that vehicle workshops and motor garages do not currently have the existing skillset and talent needed to service electric vehicles.
Calling for a significant government investment of £15 million towards EV technician training, IMI highlight that the funding would play a critical role in building the much-needed skillset of 75,000 vehicle technicians.
Steve Nash, CEO of the IMI, said: “With just 6.5% of the automotive workforce currently qualified to work on electric vehicles there is a gaping chasm in the availability of technicians. And that chasm not only presents a safety threat for those who may risk working on high voltage vehicle systems without appropriate training and qualifications; it also means the premium on skills could add to costs for motorists, creating another, unnecessary deterrent to the switch to EV…
The government has committed £1.9bn to tackling consumer uptake and charging issues. We are asking that £15m is set aside for employers to access to support their own investment in skills training to get their workforce EV-ready. This will be particularly important for the independent sector.”
In order to safely maintain the 12.7 million electric vehicle population which is estimated in the next ten years, Nash and IMI president, Jim Saker wrote an open letter sent to the Government back in January 2021 outlining the need for a “concerted, ongoing workforce development strategy” if there are to be enough trained technicians to support a 2030 ban on new diesel, petrol and hybrid vehicles.
Recent research from BP has revealed that 53% of company car drivers and 42% of fleet managers do not necessarily believe that the government’s plan for the 2030 ban on the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will go ahead.
The research suggests a pure lack of confidence in the preparations put forward by the UK government, with charging infrastructure (and perceived lack of) remaining a key concern for both groups.
In fact, the research showed that a significant 54% of fleet managers and 61% of drivers said that their main concern about adopting EVs is inadequate public charging and ultimately, range anxiety.
Furthermore, 37% of fleet managers and 31% do not anticipate switching for another three to four years.
One of the main reasons for this delay is driven by 62% of fleet drivers worrying about running out of charge on the road, while 50% of fleet managers suggest providing adequate at home charging solutions for their drivers is their main concern.
And of course, understandably, the research suggests that COVID-19 has also had a part to play in delaying the switch, with 38% of fleet managers who are not planning to switch within the next two years blaming the global pandemic as the main hold up.
It has been announced that new EV chargers installed at home and in the workplace from May, will be pre-programmed to switch off during peak hours to ease pressure on the National Grid.
This means that new chargers will not operate from 8am to 11am and 4pm to 10pm (although owners and fleets will be able to override the pre-set times to take account of night workers and people who have different schedules) whilst public chargers and rapid chargers, on motorways and A-roads, will be exempt.
There will also be ‘randomised delay’ of up to 30 minutes introduced, when there is high demand from motorists, as more company car drivers make the switch to EVs away from diesel and petrol.
Policy Director for UK and Ireland at ChargePoint, Tanya Sinclair, commented that “concerns surrounding the UK’s grid to support the charging of electric vehicles is mounting. The challenge for the Government, and perhaps the wider electricity system, is ensuring the ‘smartness’ in every charger is actively used by consumers, and managing the load represented by the legacy charging infrastructure already in the field which is not smart.”
The National Grid has estimated that 80% of EV drivers will use smart charging by 2050 and this will help balance almost half of the UK's energy demands brought on by the move to zero emissions driving. It says that around 45% of homes will actively help to balance the grid, offering up to 38GW of flexible electricity to help manage peaks and fill troughs in demand.
Smart changing means EV owners can plug in their vehicles and a management system will top up the vehicle at times that will be most beneficial to manage energy demand. It also allows drivers and fleet operators to manage their charging stations remotely, implement new features automatically and gather data about how chargers are being used and by whom.