Who will fix those millions new electric vehicles?

UK research shows just 1% of technicians trained on EVs or hybrids

Published: November 23, 2017, 4:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:05 PM

BMW i3 Powertrain

As the auto industry speeds toward an electrified future of electric-only lineups and thousands of charging stations to create a roadmap to keep the millions of EVs rolling, we are perhaps forgetting an important part of making this brave new electric world run smoothly — who’s going to fix them?

It seems that every day multi-million dollar plans are announced aiming to put more electric vehicles on the road in the coming decade, and more spending is budgeted to install charging points to make it less of a hurdle for consumers to purchase them, but very little is being put toward training technicians to maintain and fix EVs.

“The IMI welcomes today’s announcement, in the Autumn Budget, that £400m (about $676.9 million Canadian) is being allocated to build the electric vehicle charging infrastructure,” says Steve Nash, CEO of the Institute of the Motor Industry. “This is great news and puts the UK on a strong path for the wider adoption of this motoring technology. However, at the IMI, we hope that a proportion of this funding will be allocated to the training of the technicians who will work on these vehicles.”

The UK’s IMI is an association of automotive professionals that sets, upholds and promotes professional standards in the UK industry. It estimates that roughly 1% of the technician workforce in the UK have been trained to work safely on the high-voltage technology in today’s electric vehicles and hybrids, and almost all of them are employed at dealerships.

And in the UK, it’s a problem that expands outside the ability to have an electric vehicle fixed in a reasonable timeframe. Apparently, owners of EVs are seeing insurance premiums up by as much as 50% compared to internal-combustion-engined vehicles, reportedly due to the scarcity of properly trained technicians.

The IMI has brought its concerns to Parliament, proposing a Licence to Practise to certify technicians to work on high-voltage systems, including assigning a cost of training that would be borne by government. The proposal is reportedly being considered by the Secretary of State for Transportation.

“In line with our proposals for regulation of those working on the high voltage systems of electric and hybrid vehicles, we have calculated that a relatively small investment of £30m (about $50.7 million) could help accelerate the uptake of new skills, particularly across the independent service & repair sector,” explained Nash. “We believe that the UK will fail to keep up with the global competition for the adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) if more technicians aren’t given the training required to service these high-powered vehicles.

“We must ensure the UK has the skills base to support motorists making an easy transition from petrol and diesel to electric and hybrid. Financial support to help those working in the service & repair sector, most particularly the independent operators, is crucial,” he concluded.