Concerns & opportunities: Harnessing the skills opportunities of a recharged electric vehicle sector

8th May 20243 Minutes

The recent RECHARGE UK report on ‘Harnessing the skills opportunities of a recharged electric vehicle sector’, in association with Curzon Consulting, explores how the UK can equip its workforce for the exciting opportunities emerging in the EV sector.

It’s clear from the research that various concerns are prevalent across multiple stakeholders.

The number one concern for all participants is attaining and maintaining a capable, skilled workforce. Cited through various frustrations in workforce shortages, EV skills gaps and funding. 

DNOs, CPOs & Tech-Safe accredited organisations all struggle to recruit electricians with the relevant EV experience. Many indicate the existing workforce does not have the specific knowledge required to maintain the EV sector or the capability to meet the future demands of the industry, with little time to retrain.

Forecasts predict a shortage of qualified technicians to service the growing number of electric vehicles. Skilled EV personnel are often lured by large contracts and concentrated in urban areas, leaving a limited talent pool for smaller organisations in rural communities.

Similarly, Local Authorities, especially those in rural areas, work hard to attract qualified staff for EV infrastructure projects. With limited, temporary funding, they lack the budget to hire & retain experienced staff.

Vehicle Manufacturers are concerned about recruiting staff across the entire EV design & manufacturing process. Reskilling the existing workforce will be an expensive challenge, with many traditional mechanic roles disappearing to be replaced by the shift to electric.

Software Providers have similar recruitment challenges, with software development courses too focused on marketing applications and not enough on practical engineering applications.

For those with specialised EV skills, sourcing and attracting qualified professionals is demanding due to low unemployment and high competition within the software development field.

However, it’s not all doom & gloom… the report made four recommendations to ensure the EV sector can compete globally and meet the stakeholder concerns.

As expected, the EV sector offers significant, job & career opportunities, for a diverse workforce, across the entire sector. However, a reform in education is required to ensure qualified, and capable individuals meet the needs of the industry.

Upskilling and retraining to support the continued improvement and promotion of opportunities to the existing workforce and reskilling programmes, to ensure that those in the workforce without relevant skills, outside of the EV sector can access the growing number of opportunities on offer.

However, for the sector to meet the demands, these recommendations require collaboration between the Government, the EV industry, and the Education sector.

Details of the full report can be found here.

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Harnessing the skills opportunities of a recharged electric vehicle sector

23rd April 20242 Minutes

We are honoured to be the official supporter of a new report “Harnessing the skills opportunities of a recharged electric vehicle sector”. The report was prepared by RECHARGE UK, the EV arm of the REA (Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology) in association with Curzon Consulting. The report examines how the UK can equip its workforce for the exciting opportunities emerging in the EV sector.

Research compiled from industry stakeholders explores four key recommendations all requiring collaboration between the EV sector, local & central government, and educators, to ensure the UK workforce is prepared for, and, has the opportunities to learn the relevant skills needed to shape a sustainable, capable workforce.

 

Matt Western MP, Shadow Minister for Higher Education and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Electric Vehicles, said:

If we are going to decarbonise our economy and take advantage of the green opportunities of the future, we will need a workplace capable of delivering it. That’s why this report by the REA is so important and I hope it positively influences the debate.

There’s so much enthusiasm for the climate agenda among young people we need to harness. I want to see the Government commit to supporting colleges to specialise in the technical skills needed to build electric vehicles, as well as reform the apprenticeship levy to unlock funding for retraining and reskilling employees in the automotive sector.

 

Andrew Morgan, Managing Partner at Curzon Consulting, said:

Our contributing research with industry stakeholders on the frontline of the EV revolution shines a light on the exciting new career paths it is creating and the determination they are making to grow and develop the talent pool. It also underlines the urgent and continued need to do more and for industry to be supported by Government to match the efforts and underpin the continued expansion of the EV sector.

Details of the full report can be found here.

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Can charging supply keep pace with electric vehicle demand?

11 Minutes

Net-zero carbon emissions by 2050…

Electric vehicles (EVs) are increasingly heralded by nations across the globe as a vital part of the net-zero transition to reduce emissions, and the key technology for decarbonising transportation, which accounts for 13% of emissions globally. But whilst vehicle sales have been booming in recent years, the installation of charging networks that underpin EV usage are trailing dangerously behind. The extent of this lag is particularly concerning in the United Kingdom (UK) where it poses a fundamental threat not just to the continued growth of the EV market, which by the end of 2023 is projected to be worth £16bn, but it threatens any plans for the UK to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A global EV boom driven by three central influences

Such has been the drive to increase the uptake of EVs, that global sales of Battery EVs (BEVs) and Plug-In Hybrid EVs (PHEV) doubled in 2021 from the previous year, and 2022 saw a +55% increase in global EV sales over ‘21. The registration of 10.5 million new vehicles in ’22 was despite component supply chain shortages and disruptions from the war in Ukraine that hampered output. With approximately 27 million EVs on the road today, they now account for a global market share of 13% of vehicles on the road.

What is clear is that as global consumers increasingly align their climate-driven values with vehicle purchasing, the number of EVs on the road will continue to rise exponentially. This is an ‘EV boom’ that has been accelerated by a combination of three central influences:

  1. Sustained governmental policy support, in the form of subsidies and incentives, pledges to phase out internal combustion engines (ICEs), and lofty electrification targets
  2. The rise in the availability and performance of EV models, which now gives consumers five times as many to choose from than in 2015
  3. Electrification of fleets by car manufacturers, in a race to meet rising consumer demand.

Showcasing the innovations and ideas behind EV market growth

The annual London EV show and conference, held at the end of November ‘22, is a platform where stakeholders from all three market influences gather to showcase the innovations and ideas that are spearheading the UK EV transition. With representation from the entire value chain, this year’s event included collaborations between government representatives, fleet management, charging systems & solutions providers, battery technology providers, major car manufacturers, and other influential stakeholders.

Attending the show provided me with a ‘peak-under-the-bonnet’ of the UK EV market and shed light on some of the key trends emerging in 2023 and beyond. Conference talks included those from industry leaders and leading research centres, amongst the latest vehicle innovations being showcased. These talks had one key common theme – that whilst a marketplace as dynamic as EVs offers great opportunity, commercially and in tackling climate change, capitalising effectively on these opportunities over the next few years will be fraught with challenge for the UK.

UK charging infrastructure is struggling to keep pace with the EV growth

The London EV show highlighted just how much the UK EV market has expanded in recent years in line with global growth, notching up an impressive 92% increase in EV registrations between January ‘21 and January ‘22.

UK charging, however, is still in its infancy relative to the vehicles it powers, and comparatively lags behind. There is a growing disparity between the growth rates of EV sales in the UK and charge point installations. This divergence threatens to impede the UK from meeting climate-goals set by the government and derail the feasibility of the UK’s ban on internal combustion engines (ICEs) that looms in 2030.

When you compare the absolute number of public charge point installations the UK needs to support the proposed transition, with current figures, it is clear there is still a long way to go. If the government’s 2022 charging infrastructure strategy successfully meets its ambition, by 2030 there should be over 300,000 public chargers installed nationwide. In comparison, as of January ‘23, there were cumulatively just 38,000 public charge points available across the UK.

More importantly, though, is considering the pace of charger installations relative to new EV registrations – which is slowing owing to the continued acceleration of new EV registrations. Since January ‘20, the cumulative number of EVs in the UK has increased 3.8X, whereas the number of charge points has increased just 2.6X. This increasing disparity is made ever clearer by the change in the UK’s EV-to-charge point ratio – a measure which helps assess the suitability of a nation’s charging network to support its vehicle’s needs.

As a benchmark, the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Directive (AFID), an EU policy which regulates the deployment of public chargers, recommends a ratio of 10 EVs per public charge point for EU member states.

In 2016, the UK had a healthy ratio of approximately 8 EVs per charge point. Comparatively, the UK now has the 9th worst global ratio of 21 EVs per public charge point. There are evidently key lessons to be learned from the likes of South Korea, the global leader which boasts a ratio of just 2.6.

Unlocking mass adoption with public charging infrastructure

The vehicle-to-charger gap poses a fundamental problem to the mass adoption of EVs in the UK, for two main reasons. Firstly, on average, 30% of UK households lack off-street parking for residential charging. This figure rises to around 40% across major UK cities, and as high as 50% in London. These households will therefore have to rely on the public charging network – either off-street slow, charging, or nearby fast/rapid charging hubs – to charge their vehicles at home.

This scenario works, provided there are enough charge points to accommodate users. However, too few chargers pose a major barrier for drivers switching over from ICEs, who will view EVs as impractical until there is somewhere suitably convenient to charge them.

When Which? surveyed 1.5k electric car owners, nearly half said that their nearest public chargers were over a 20-minute walk away.

Not exactly convenient.

The logic is the same looking across the UK’s charging network for longer journeys. For true mass adoption, there needs to be enough charge points to make charging your vehicle battery as convenient as filling up with fuel currently.

Speak to any EV owner in the UK, however, and they will tell you of the growing issues around public charging: long queues, a myriad of payment systems and apps to contend with for different charge-point-operators, and chargers which simply don’t work (experienced by 4 in 10 customers of public EV chargers).

This is not conducive to convincing the masses to switch from ICE vehicles to the more sustainable option of electric.

These issues with the charging infrastructure will continue to exacerbate as drivers become increasingly reliant on public chargers, versus at home or work, the more that make the switch to EVs. The UK urgently needs to accelerate its plans for large-scale installations across the public charging network, which is so far failing to deliver the c.100 installations per day needed until 2030 – last month (Jan ’23) just 28 charging devices were installed per day. A large-scale programme such as this requires a unified drive from all stakeholders.

As demand and supply continue to fall out of balance, this situation presents opportunities for private investment in the expansion of the charging networks. The current EV charge point operator market is highly fragmented and lacks a ‘gold-standard’ of consumer vehicle charging. There is a clear market need that so far appears unfulfilled in both availability and quality.

Whilst there are a multitude of other challenges that must be addressed, such as ensuring a sufficient supply of electricity to meet charging demands, each of these challenges offers their own commercial opportunities. 

For those considering entering or expanding within the space, now is the time to answer the key strategic questions – what is the ‘Size of the Prize’ available? Which of the current barriers-to-adoption offer the greatest opportunities if addressed effectively, and how can that value be harnessed?

 

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