Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Institute of the Motor Industry (VTAB 04)

Making the most of electric vehicles - Infrastructure, skills, and safety.

The Institute of the Motor Industry is the Professional Body that covers the 800,000 people working in the automotive sector. The sector as a whole, supply chain, manufacturing and retail generates £160 billion in turnover every year. IMI certificates 100,000 people per year from its range of over 300 qualifications and skills accreditations that include, apprenticeships and the new MOT tester assessments that businesses rely on.

The motor industry is unregulated, so literally anyone can set up in business to sell, repair and service motor vehicles. In this environment the IMI attempts to protect the safety of individuals working in the sector and to defend the interests of consumers by running a voluntary license to practise based on skills accreditation, qualifications and continuous professional development (CPD). The Professional Register is a searchable database that allows the public to find appropriately skilled and qualified industry professionals in their locality.

The IMI position on the VTAB

KPMG have forecast that the overall economic and social benefit of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles could be in the region of £51billion per year with the creation of 320,000 additional jobs. They estimate a potential reduction of serious roadside accidents by 25,000 casualties per year that would save the NHS £24m by 2030. The elimination of 40,000 deaths and 100,000’s of respiratory illnesses caused by air pollution from diesel and petrol motor engines will increase this saving significantly.

The Secretary of State has said, ‘The UK is a world leader in the uptake of low emission vehicles and our long term economic plan is investing £600 million by 2020 to improve air quality, create jobs and achieve our goal of every new car and van in the UK being ultra–low emission by 2040.’

The IMI believes that to achieve the Government’s aims and reap the predicted economic and environmental benefits there is a need for a more holistic policy approach than the Government has taken up to now.

Charging infrastructure

The IMI agrees that UK needs to have consistent and sustainable EV charging facilities across the country and supports the Government’s approach to improving the situation to assuage the public’s "Range anxiety" in relation to ULEVs. There are currently 11,840 charge points across the UK. These are segmented into three categories; slow charge (6 to 8 hours), fast charge (3 to 4 hours), and rapid charge (30 to 60 minutes).

In addition, respected academic and motor industry commentator Professor Jim Saker of Loughborough University points out that the New Automotive Industry Growth Team project have indicated there are only two ways forward as regards to the future power train of vehicles; and that is Electric Vehicles and (Hydrogen) Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV). Currently however there are only 7 hydrogen filling stations in the UK.

Important issues the Bill does not address

Skills gap and competition issues

The IMI believes there is a major impediment to the wholesale proliferation of ULEVs in the UK; the serious skills gap facing the industry. A recent study conducted on behalf of the IMI showed that 81% of independent garages found it difficult to recruit technicians with the skills and competencies to undertake work on hybrid and electric cars. Out of 183,869 vehicle technicians in the UK only 2,000 are qualified on EVs and these are all employed in manufacturer’s franchised dealerships.

IMI research tells us that the 40,000 independent businesses in the sector are unlikely to invest in these rare skills for their staff without guarantees of business growth and some security for their investment in a very tight labour market. If the situation is not addressed an effective monopoly for the manufacturers will continue. This is already leading to concerns about high repair costs, resulting in insurance charges often being inflated by as much as 50% higher for EV’s and PHEV’s compared to their petrol and diesel equivalents. The Government’s investments in charging infrastructure alone are therefore not enough to bring about the wholesale consumer transition from traditional internal combustion engine powered vehicles.

Safety, a risk to life and the reputation of the technology

The battery packs on plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles operate at high voltages (up to 600v) and the control systems in these vehicles frequently operate at direct currents of 200v DC and more. Manufacturers have taken the necessary precautions to ensure that the vehicles are safe in their day-to-day use. However, the risk of untrained vehicle technicians attempting to repair hybrid and electric vehicles is high, as many of the components remain live even when the vehicle is switched off and even some of the more familiar components such as brakes…which are invariably regenerative in EV’s/PHEV’s, may carry high voltage components. Any untrained technicians working on these vehicles are undoubtedly putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.

To put this into perspective a UK household runs on 240v alternating current (AC). In order to legally conduct any electrical work on the premises an electrician has to be licenced under the NiCEIC BS 7671 scheme. Yet, no such regulation exists for those working on the high-voltage systems of electrically powered vehicles, which arguably carry more lethal direct currents than the domestic mains.

IMI Proposals

Government Investment in training

With major problems over recruitment and large skills shortages within the sector it is clear that unless a proactive strategy is undertaken the UK will not be able to support the growth of low carbon emission vehicles. The IMI has called for a modest investment of £30 million to assist the independent service & repair sector to train the required number of people.

Licence to practise

The Government should make it illegal for unqualified technicians to work on EV, PHEV and FCEV cars and should mandate the IMI, as the industry’s Professional Body, along with the Health and Safety Executive, to maintain and publish the register of licenced technicians.

The IMI’s established accreditation scheme, already widely adopted by vehicle manufacturers as the benchmark for their own franchised dealer technicians, would form the basis for licensing at 3 levels:

· Level 2 – Working safely on the passive systems of ULEV’s (e.g. steering, suspension….)

· Level 3 – Isolating the electrics in order to work on systems such as regenerative brakes

· Level 4 – Safely working on high voltage systems including battery packs

The Professional Register would, as it does now, show the specific qualification levels of each registered individual.

March 2017


Prepared 15th March 2017