Analysts are already calling 2020 the 'year of the electric car' as manufacturers race to launch models with lower carbon dioxide emissions.
For automotive engineering businesses in West Yorkshire and beyond, this rapidly expanding market could pose welcome opportunity after a period of limbo caused by Brexit uncertainty.
This year electric cars will undeniably hit the mainstream. Industry giants such as Fiat, Mini and Vauxhall are all set to launch electric models that will be affordable to buy and run for the masses.
Researchers IHS Markit predicts that the number of electric vehicle models available to European buyers will rise from fewer than 100 to 175 by the end of 2020. By 2025 there could be more than 330.
Additionally, electric vehicle sales in the UK will rise from 3.4% of all vehicles sold in 2019 to 5.5% in 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Why is it changing?
The trend is gathering speed as car manufacturers are forced to meet increasingly tough emissions legislation.
And the UK government has pledged that by 2030, at least half of all new car sales, and up to 40% of new van sales, will be hybrid or electric.
By 2040, it plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.
Lydia Yorke-Brown, business development executive, with responsibility for the engineering sector at Huddersfield recruitment specialist Stafflex, says this disruption to traditional car making is already impacting local firms.
How is it impacting West Yorkshire?
Based in Huddersfield, Stafflex has provided staff to the industrial sector since 2000.
Its specialist engineering division has more than 15 years of combined experience providing temporary and permanent recruitment solutions dealing with a variety of roles from shop floor skilled trades to supervisory and management positions.
“The move to electric cars is impacting some of my clients already,” says Yorke-Brown.
“One of my clients in Bradford has just won a massive contract with Jaguar, manufacturing electric motors for them.
“The impact is going to be huge and it will be the main trend shaping the local engineering sector in 2020.
“Clients who are in the automotive industry who aren’t reacting to this change are suffering. They don’t need as many staff, they don’t have the orders they had this time last year, and many are feeling worried.
“So within one year, the electric car trend is already having a massive impact as the focus shifts in the industry.”
New skills, more jobs?
Brexit has undoubtedly shaken the core of the automotive industry and the move to electric vehicles could result in heavy job losses.
But by embracing the switch, forward thinking and proactive companies could not only save jobs, but also create more says Yorke-Brown.
“I have seen that the move to electric vehicles is already changing a lot of what companies are looking for in terms of recruitment.
“I am recruiting for people with transferrable skills at this moment in time because the necessary training and qualifications for working with electric cars don’t actually exist yet.
“Those with transferrable skills are being trained in-house at present but eventually the demand for new skills will have an impact in local colleges and on apprenticeships. We will need to develop new skillsets in order to manufacture electric motors.
The benefits of being eco-friendly
“For companies already involved in electric cars it’s an exciting time. Sustainability is a key issue and we need to make changes now rather than down the line. People want to be associated with businesses that promote themselves as eco-friendly.
“Sadly, there have been quite a few redundancies locally in Huddersfield but on a more positive note, as well as losing jobs, a lot of roles are going to be created as people gain new skills and qualifications as the sector modernises. Companies must face the future.”
Last year Jaguar Land Rover invested £1bn into electric vehicles, and now the new the electric Mini is being manufactured in the UK, demonstrably boosting the industry.
Electric vehicles could accelerate the automotive engineering industry in West Yorkshire and beyond into a better future.
“I believe that there is a positive outlook for the engineering sector in 2020,” says Yorke-Brown.
“In particular, the rise of awareness within the automotive industry for eco-friendly vehicles has the potential to create new apprenticeships, training courses and career development opportunities.”