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Electric vehicle drive puts 22,000 UK jobs at risk, warns industry

More than 22,000 UK jobs making engines or other traditional car parts are placed at risk by the shift to electric vehicles, the industry’s trade body has warned.

Around 15 per cent of production jobs in the automotive sector are in specialist areas such as engines, exhaust systems or fuel tanks, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders on Tuesday.

It added that these roles would be threatened once the sale of petrol or diesel models is phased out, which is due to happen by 2035 in the UK under its net zero strategy, as well as across Europe.

“For many long-established component segments such as engine and exhaust producers and their sub-suppliers, the transition to electrification presents major challenges,” the SMMT said.

“While some companies are already on the journey, many risk being left behind as the jobs and skills involved with internal combustion engine technology may not be transferable.”

The figure of 22,000 excludes vehicle assembly workers who put together electric cars in plants such as Nissan’s Sunderland site or at BMW in Oxford, but includes jobs further down the supply chain specialising in parts used only in engine-driven vehicles.

The government is trying to attract battery manufacturers to the UK to grow a domestic supply base for the country’s auto industry once it shifts to making solely electric vehicles.

The SMMT did not quantify how many new roles would be created by the battery sector but according to industry forecasts fewer new jobs will open than those that disappear.

A study by CLEPA, which represents automotive parts groups in the EU, forecast that fewer than half of the jobs lost in engine vehicle development will be replaced by the development of a battery production industry.

Of the 500,000 jobs CLEPA expects to disappear during the transition, only 226,000 roles will be created, the agency said.

The SMMT on Tuesday also warned that UK car plants and their suppliers face almost a £100mn increase in energy and gas prices this year, which will force up costs and may lead to higher vehicle prices.

“Addressing the UK’s high energy costs is the industry’s number one ask,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT.

“Help with energy costs now will help keep us competitive and be a windfall for the sector, stimulating investment in innovation, R&D, and training — all reinvested in the UK economy.”

The industry body has asked several times for the government to grant the sector “energy intensive” status, allowing it a discount on electricity prices.

Battery production was included in the government’s scheme to help energy intensive industries in April. But carmaking has not been included in the scheme.

Hawes added: “The additional cost of producing vehicles and components in the UK is putting manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage, stalling momentum at the very time the sector needs to make massive investments to meet accelerated timescales for zero emission transformation.”

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