FEATURE Electric vehicles
The race is on for the UK to be the dynamo for electric cars
Unite is fighting to make sure British industry is not left in the slow lane as traditional cars reach the end of the road – overtaken by electric vehicles.
Leading motor manufacturers are joining the ever-increasing queue of firms announcing electric versions of cars, opening up huge opportunities for new, and different, jobs.
The revolution is even sweeping up entrepreneurs such as Sir James Dyson who is investing £2bn on developing a battery- powered car, to be launched in 2020.
But Unite accuses the government of failing to invest in the technology or skills needed to power the historic switch from petrol and diesel to battery.
Assistant general secretary Tony Burke said the accelerating growth in electric vehicles in the UK and other countries has huge implications for Unite members in the hugely important sector.
“The government’s cack-handed decision to ban the sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 has created major problems because ministers like Michael Gove did not think things through.
“We recognise the options will be electric or hybrid, especially as the price of electric
cars comes down. We can build the cars in the UK, but we don't have the infrastructure needed for a mass switch over,” he told uniteWORKS.
The obvious questions about electric cars apart from the cost, include how far they can be driven before running out of power, how long it takes to re-charge batteries, and how many charging points are available.
Motorists will want to re-charge batteries at service stations as quickly as filling up with petrol or diesel - or be able to replace a nearly-flat battery for a fully charged one.
‘Transition plan’ Unite is tackling all these issues with a “transition plan” for new vehicle technology which will be published by the end of the year.
General secretary Len McCluskey writes in a draft of the report that the automotive sector is the “jewel in the crown” of UK manufacturing.
He said, “For decades the sector has been a source of good quality employment for hundreds of thousands of workers, in both the major assembly sites and throughout the supply chain. No industry is static. The eventual demise of petrol and diesel powered vehicles and the emergence of
10 uniteWORKS Autumn 2017
electric, internet-connected and driverless technology heralds changes unseen since the end of the horse-drawn era.
“Unite is clear. We want investment in new technology. We want to see high- skilled, secure jobs on decent pay. We want to see the UK automotive sector hold its own against Germany, the United States, Southern Asia and China.”
News that BMW is to assemble an electric Mini at Cowley from 2019 has been welcomed, but the electric powertrain and batteries will be imported from Bavaria, highlighting the gap needed to be closed for the UK to take full advantage.
As the electric vehicle market sparks into life, the UK already has a number of leading manufacturers gearing up for future demand, from the Mini in Cowley and Nissan Leaf in Sunderland, to the Coventry-based London Taxi Company, which has already entered the final phase of testing, with investment from Chinese owner Geely.
Scotland’s Alexander Dennis and Northern Ireland’s Wright Bus produce hybrid, hydrogen and electric buses for inner-city transit.
The government is putting £65m into the Faraday Battery Institute, part of £246m
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