Technology including AI is the buzzword of the moment and continues to transform every industry including the automobile sector. The biggest evolution in recent years has been a move towards green power and electric vehicles. But it is not as simple as making green-powered vehicles; there are teething problems both with the charging points and the batteries to store energy. The intent and will are there but much more needs to happen in terms of the infrastructure to support these changes.

Recently we learned that the UK government has managed to make a deal with the EU that meant trade rules on electric vehicles would be extended until the end of 2026. This was welcome news as it postponed the ‘rules of origin’requirement plus the costly imposition of 10% tariffs on EVs. It is hoped this will give both the battery industry time to catch up and the Department of Transport to meet its target of at least 6 rapid chargers at every motorway service station; we learned at the back of last year this had fallen short of projected numbers.

It feels like whilst the automotive industry is doing its utmost to rapidly transform, it’s being let down by the infrastructure. RAC analysis showed that just 46 out of 119 sites have met the ambition for the number of ultra-rapid chargers. The government is offering tax breaks for electrical company vehicles, but it’s falling short in facilitating charge points for fleets with tight supply chain demands. 

UK investment

These delays have not stopped investment in EV production. At the end of Q3 last year, BMW announced a £600M investment in its Oxford plant aimed at converting to all-electric production by 2030. This follows hot on the heels of Stellanti’s Ellesmere Port site becoming the UK’s first all-electric vehicle production plant. There was good news on the battery front too with Tata Group announcing it would be creating up to 4000 jobs through the construction of a new electric car battery factory. 

Source: House of Commons automotive debate briefing

The automotive industry has always been at the forefront of technology with almost 60 years since the first robot was used by General Motors in one of their plants. Industrial robots are in use globally with almost 40% of those being deployed in the automotive sector. AI now opens the potential for thousands of decisions to be made far quicker than human counterparts and negates the need for downtime. 

So, what does this mean for the people currently working in the automotive sector in the UK? 

Whilst the inevitable casualty seems to be labour, we will likely therefore see a shift towards individuals who can interpret data in the automotive industries and leaders who understand how best to utilise AI capabilities. It will take consultancy with the current automotive workforce to understand how best to utilise and maximise the potential of AI. We haven’t got to the point where fleets are driven by AI just yet and therefore leaders who can manage people and data to deliver excellence for supply chain and logistics will be much sought after. We will also always need skilled candidates, who can sell, market and distribute and have relevant commercial experience.