Electric changes coming to UK vehicle manufacturing jobs

From 2030 onwards, sales of new fossil fuel cars will be banned in the UK. This means that the next decade will be one of massive change for Britain’s automotive manufacturing industry. Jobs and whole companies may need to completely transform themselves.

In some ways, the timing couldn’t be worse. The past year has been a tough one for UK vehicle manufacturers – the pandemic is the leading cause of the worst drop in car sales for almost eighty years.

Now, at the same time as recovering, the industry needs to make sweeping changes if they’re going to hit that 2030 target.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Because to help the industry get there, a whole lot of investment is going to be called for. This could lead to many opportunities and the creation of large numbers of manufacturing jobs in exciting new green industries.

The journey from 1 to 100% battery power

In 2019, only 1.6% of the 2.3 million new cars registered in the UK during the year were battery powered. Taken as a whole, Electric Vehicles (EVs) on the roads of Britain are still estimated to be less than 1% of the total.

Finding that other 99% is going to be an incredible challenge. The UK government has already brought the targets in line with what environment experts say they should be. But while levels of government investment in things like vital battery design improvements have been made, there isn’t much investment in what is needed to actually manufacture them.

Plus, that’s just one area. The head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) has welcomed government incentives so far but has joined many other senior industry leaders in calling for much more of the same.

Where does investment need to happen?

Industry leaders, as well as the Labour Party, Green Party and groups like the Green Alliance, have called for billions of pounds more investment and action on meeting targets, including a focus that will create many more potential new business opportunities in:

  • Gigafactories – is the name given to factories designed to manufacture electric vehicle batteries. The UK has the largest gigafactory in Europe. But since 2017, Germany has overtaken Britain in terms of EV sales. China manufactures 50% of the world’s total supply of EVs.

  • Recycling – what is going to happen to all of the old fossil fuel-powered vehicles when 2030 rolls around? A massive expansion in proper recycling and repurposing facilities is going to be necessary.

  • Public transport – the importance of zero-emission buses is being pushed by UK bus manufacturers. Many have been struggling to hit sales targets recently, but all are rightly saying that changes need to start happening sooner rather than later with this key part of the UK’s public transport network.

  • New charging infrastructure – there has been a huge expansion in the number of EV charging stations across the UK, driven largely by private enterprises who see it as being in their best interests. But more improvements are going to be necessary if people are to be convinced to overcome lingering initial concerns over EV range.

The UK and the world

The UK government has said that it wants to “cement the UK’s position as a world leader in the low emission and electric vehicle industry”. In order to make this more than words, much more investment and leadership are going to be called for.

Most sources attribute the recent rise in EV sales to EU emissions rules. Countries like France and Germany are starting to pour money into their automotive manufacturing industries, creating thousands of jobs and subsidising new car purchases.

Yet the opportunity is here for the UK to be more than competitive in EV manufacture. If Britain gets ahead now, the UK could transform itself from a country with a £5 billion trade deficit in vehicles to being primarily an exporter.

All of which, done right, will create huge numbers of manufacturing jobs for the people of the UK. It will potentially catapult the industry to the front of global trade. The journey from 1 to 100% battery-powered vehicles starts right here.

Are you looking for a job in manufacturing? Or are you in the EV industry, looking for just the right new hire to join your team?

Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering and manufacturing recruitment agency.

Talk to us today about your ideal role or must-have hire. We’ll get to work finding you the perfect match.