Last July, production began on Tesla’s new $35,000 (£24,932 est) Model 3 sedan. This caused quite the discussion with many people doubting whether or not the price is low enough to guarantee mass sustainability. The price of the vehicle is significantly lower than its predecessors, with the Model S starting at $70,000 (£49,861 est) and the Model X coming in at around $85,000 (£65,546 est).
However, the Tesla hype aside, what does this mean for electric vehicles? Will it result in predominance over the automobile market in the UK, or will we see a decline in the future?
Les Hewlett, Automotive Divisional Head at Matchtech, explains:
‘The automotive industry is set to change hugely over the next ten or twenty years, with manufacturers developing increasingly fast and efficient electric vehicles with an aesthetic and driving experience that rivals their diesel and petrol equivalents. With this shift towards electric vehicle development, we expect to see the role of the automotive engineer change, with particular emphasis on battery knowledge.’
It’s believed that by 2030 the social benefit of electric vehicles, connected and autonomous is predicted to rise to £51b per year. This will have a massive impact on the economy with the potential of 320,000 new jobs in the industry. These jobs will more than likely require an expanded skill set from automotive engineers as a result, especially as they are becoming the more dominantly produced vehicle.
What issues could arise?
One of the main issues regarding electric vehicles is that the are significantly less complex. Batteries, electronics and electric motors will replace transmissions, exhausts and internal combustion engines and this will result in the use of outsourced products. Could this result in a loss of jobs in some areas or will companies be able to train their staff to adapt to these changing needs?
The dominance of electric vehicles in the automotive industry looks set to become inevitable but the question of timescale is still something of a mystery. Back in July 2017 it was announced that new diesel and petrol vehicles will be banned from the UK from 2040 but this still raises questions around changes to infrastructure and attitudes to long established behaviour.
In the meantime, powertrain manufacturing could reap the benefits of new rules and regulations that are being implemented in order to satisfy emission targets and make vehicles more environmentally-friendly. Demands from consumers could change over time and powertrain manufacturers would need to adapt to these changing needs in innovating ways allowing the job market to remain afloat.
How will the automotive industry adapt?
With the potential for cars to be made much more quickly and easily, there could be a price drop in the future. This means that more vehicles will be sold and therefore, more job opportunities on the horizon. The automotive manufacturing industry may want to look into schemes such as shared ownership and lending and borrowing to become more recognised in order to generate profit. Changes in the industry would need to take place from traditional production to offering products and services that can help with expanded car use.
Current manufacturers have the advantage of having a headstart, as they will have the experience, knowledge, networks and infrastructure to start them off. Companies such as Daimler are already looking at ways they can start making changes such as building electric vehicle components themselves, rather than having to contact external companies. This, they believe, will help to minimise job loses and boost the company’s industry knowledge and experience.
On the other hand, some companies may welcome external organisations as this could result in a more collaborative approach and create new ways of working together on future projects.
Tom Mongan, General Manager at Subcon Laser said:
‘On a recent tour of the Energy Innovation Centre at the University of Warwick, it was fascinating to see the testing and development going on into battery power. However whether the infrastructure required to support this concept is achievable is a different matter entirely. I also see the development of electric vehicles having a severe impact on the supply chain as an internal combustion engine has around 2000 moving parts and an electric one will have around 20.’