Build Back Better

The Government is looking for ideas of how to Build Back Better and as ever, Electrogenic has lots of ideas.

At Electrogenic, our environmental mission is key to what we do, but we are also firmly rooted in our local community.  And our community is not only local green energy and similar initiatives, we are part of the community of independent garages and automotive enthusiasts nationally.  And that community is starting to wither.  Imperceptibly at the moment, inevitable, but hopefully not inescapable.

One casualty of the wholesale adoption of EVs will be the death of the independent garage.  New EVs from big manufacturers can only be serviced at main dealers.  What does that leave for the independent garages that make up 63% of the automotive aftermarket in the UK?  Windscreen wipers and brakes?  That’s not enough to sustain a business.

We have had an idea of how to turn this around, we have found some strong support and we have written to The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, MP, who is looking for good ideas.

So have a read of the idea below and if you can help us get the message to other parts of Government, please get in touch.  Build Back Better means a focus on jobs and the environment.  This is one way to make a contribution to the environment that will create new manufacturing opportunities and safeguard jobs across the country.

19 June 2020

Build Back Better: Electric Vehicle Conversion  

The Issue

On the latest figures (2016), the British automotive aftermarket delivers an annual £12.2bn to the UK economy and supports 345,000 British jobs.  64% of these businesses are independently owned.

Building Back Better involves an accelerated shift towards a green economy including widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), but

  • the move to electric vehicles will put the majority of independent garages out of work, because EVs are only serviceable by main-dealers – so independent garages, collectively a huge employer in the UK, will become an endangered species;
  • the vast majority of EVs are manufactured overseas (so limited UK manufacturing jobs); and
  • scrapping whole cars just to make the engine electric is an environmental and economic waste.

The Idea

The idea is to:

  • Adapt existing UK-manufactured technology to convert existing cars to electric;
  • package this technology in the form of conversion “kits”; and
  • create a national training scheme to train new and up-skill existing car mechanics to be able to fit the kits and service the vehicles.

Economic Benefits

There are 40 million cars in the UK, of which 0.5% are electric.  In the absence of another solution, the other 99.5% will need to be replaced, and these will largely be replaced by imports.  The EV manufacturers’ business model is to make their EVs only serviceable at main dealers.  This means that as petrol and diesel is phased out, the independent garages that create local employment nationally, will be reduced to servicing windscreen wipers and brakes, which is only a sustainable business model for chains like Kwik Fit.  Independent garages – collectively significant employers in the UK – will simply fade away, and so will the companies that supply them.

Converting existing cars is a potentially a cheaper route into EV ownership and could be carried out by your local garage – if suitably trained and accredited.  The reality is that 56% of journeys are less than five miles and converting a car that can easily deliver this duty is relatively inexpensive.  Once a car has been converted by an independent garage, it can also be serviced there, and also upgraded: because a conversion is modular, it is easy to fit new technology (e.g. batteries) when it comes along.

The training necessary for accreditation as an approved installer will create skills in the workforce that are more widely applicable, as transport and energy become more integrated and electric and electronic systems merge between automotive and the rest of daily life.

The conversion “kits” would be manufactured in the UK.

So the programme would safeguard an important employment sector of the economy, roll out skills in the workforce relevant to the 21st Century, and create UK manufacturing jobs.

Environmental Benefits

There are 40 million cars in the UK, of which 0.5% are electric.  The other 99.5% will need to be replaced or re-purposed.  30% of the lifetime emissions of an EV stem from the manufacture of the car (excluding the batteries, which add another 25-30%).  As renewable energy powers an ever-larger share of the electricity that is charging EVs, the proportion of an EV’s overall emissions created by manufacture will increase.  In addition, scrapping internal combustion engined cars creates a disposal problem for a lot of plastic and other non-recyclables.

Cars create over 28% of UK CO2 emissions.  The UK is hosting the next UNFCCC Conference of Parties (CoP 26) and a programme to not only accelerate EV uptake, but to do this partly by recycling existing vehicles, is a great environmental story.

Attractiveness to the Consumer

Internal combustion-engined cars are being progressively legislated out of cities and there is also increasing environmental consciousness.  Relying on internal combustion-engined cars to be replaced by autonomous vehicles in the short to medium term is a big risk.  Early-adopters will move quickly to retrofit their cars, but EVs are expensive and if conversion is a cheaper option than buying a new EV, then many people will choose this route.  For city cars, it will be cheaper:  new EVs will score on range, because they are designed to fit more batteries, but conversions can easily incorporate sufficient batteries for the commuter.

Attractiveness to the customer could also be enhanced by offering finance, and by ensuring that government subsidies do not discriminate against converted EVs, as they do now.

Is it Deliverable?

Yes. It is deliverable nationally, and quickly too. Converting cars to all-electric is a tried and tested model and the technology exists in the UK automotive sector; it just needs to be packaged correctly and then the training needs to be rolled out. The scheme promotors include:

Electrogenic: a UK company and founder member of Oxfordshire Greentech, that has developed integration technology for converting fossil-fuelled cars to all-electric, and which can coordinate the system design so that existing UK-manufactured equipment can be formed into conversion “kits”; and

Activate Learning: a leading FE and Apprenticeship training provider, and capable of leading the work necessary to up-skill the UK’s mechanics.

These organisations have the core skills necessary, and if this idea moves forward, will develop the delivery team. Revitalisation, re-skilling and new markets for the UK automotive sector are crucial to a green economy.  The health of independent garages is a key part of this – they create economic resilience, local employment distributed right across the UK and a wellspring of ideas and innovation.

A Call to Action

If this idea moves forward, Electrogenic and Activate Learning will develop the delivery team. But this is not just about one company.  It is about starting an idea that with backing, can renew and green an important sector of the economy that is in every town, but is under long-term threat.  If you can help get out message to those that can move the levers of power, please get in touch.