Electric vehicle drivers could find themselves struggling to get their vehicles repaired as a skills gap means thousands more mechanics with specialist skills are needed in the coming years.
Industry leaders told i Ministers should be doing more to support garages through the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).
There are thought to be 35,000 independent garages in the UK. Until now, the industry has been relatively unregulated, with no requirement for specialist training to set up as a mechanic, according to Steve Nash, president of the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI).
That is now changing because working with EVs requires training in electrical safety.
“Anyone can set themselves up to service and repair cars, but we do have regulation that applies to electric vehicles, which is the Electricity at Work Act,” Mr Nash told i.
Servicing EVs, which are considerably heavier than traditional cars, also requires garages to upgrade their lifts.
The transition period, however, could prove bumpy. Mr. Nash said that he expected a small number of mechanics to leave the industry.
Most brand-new EVs are likely to be under warranty and serviced by franchisees, but the growing second-hand market will mean more people turning to independent garages.
In 2021, the IMI forecast a shortfall of 35,700 technicians by 2030 without intervention. The situation has since improved, said Mr. Nash, but the skills gap has not gone.
“The skills gap is coming down… but it is still there,” said Mr Nash. “In absolute terms, the spread of people who know how to do this work, it’s not absolutely even geographically. So it’s not surprising that some people will find a bit of difficulty getting someone appropriately qualified”.
Mr Nash said the costs of subsidizing the transition to fully close the gap would be tiny by government standards.
“In relative terms, it’s peanuts. Compared to general investments needed to switch the entire country across electric vehicles, it’s peanuts, but it would mean a lot to organizations at the lower end of the market.”
Those garages, with only a handful of employees, often can’t afford to have people go off for training, said Mr Nash.
Stuart James, the chief executive of the Independent Garage Association (IGA), told i he was confident the industry would cope. He said the IGA was already offering the requisite training for only £250 and had secured special deals that would allow garages to buy the correct equipment for £1,600.
The warning comes as a new analysis found that the public could miss out on £9bn of savings due to a lack of EVs for the second-hand market.
The majority of car purchases in the UK, at about 82 percent, are second hand. So far, only four percent of secondhand sales are for EVs.
The research from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) found that the market was already on course to meet the government’s mandated target for EV sales and that more ambitious targets should be possible.
Were the government’s mandate to match car companies’ own forecasts for higher possible sales, as many as 2.1 million extra small and medium-sized EVs would enter the second-hand market by 2030.
According to the ECIU, those vehicles would save their owners £9bn compared to running vehicles with internal combustion engines.
Ministers are under increasing scrutiny over whether enough work is being done to prepare Britain for the EV future.
While the sale of new fossil-fuel cars will be banned by 2030, the UK’s infrastructure is not keeping up with those ambitions. Between 2020 and 2023, the number of EVs per public charging point rose from 5.5 to 18.
The chargers are also poorly distributed nationally, with the majority concentrated in London.
Last week, the Government announced £56 million in funding for a further 2,400 chargers, although campaigners warned this would not be enough.