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Electric Vehicles – A Threat or Boon to Jobs

Guess what my colleague spends on Fuel every month for a 60 km daily commute? About 10$. Yes, you heard it right, I spend almost 10 times that on my diesel car for the same distance. No, she doesn’t carpool, she drives an Electric Car. However, she is one of that rare 1 % of new car buyers in India. Nevertheless, her tribe is increasing the world over. EVs or Electric Vehicles are attracting the public’s imagination for a cleaner earth, cheaper mode of mobility to state a few. TESLA is proving that EVs can also be premium in design and compete for speed with the Ferraris.

This wave in Electric Vehicles is increasing its presence world over. It seems like a good career opportunity for aspirant engineers wanting to make a difference. Logically this should create more job opportunities. But, there are differing views confusing young engineers in the Automobile Industry.

The World View

Four of the major Auto hubs namely USA, Germany, Japan and China have given different outlooks to the Electric Vehicles future (EV). Japan Government has said by 2050 it wants to completely switch to EV; Yes, it looks like a distant date. But, China already has a goal of 1 in 5 vehicles to be running on batteries by 2025. The USA though could see rapid growth in states which have zero emission plans like California. But they also have to contend with states which have low taxes on fuels. The intentions of scaling back of emission standards of the Trump administration is a worry too. Germany thinks it can reach 1 million Electric cars by 2022 which is less than 2% of the total cars.

The differing goals are understandable as the Industries struggle in this switch and Governments are trying to balance the gain in Green Environment to the impact on Jobs. Most studies have concluded that to manufacture a complete EV you only need one-third of the workforce that’s deployed today. The number of parts needed for an electric powertrain is about 200, versus about 1,200 components for current conventional engines, and EV Technology needs about one-third less time to assemble a car. Industry leader Daimler works council chief—said in a recent interview with Reuter that the number of workers required to build internal-combustion engines is “roughly tenfold” the amount required for electric motors. A study conducted by Germany indicates elimination of about 75,000 jobs by 2030 due to EV.

Electric Vehicles- The Design Challenge and Jobs

Prima facie, it is predicted that a significant reduction in a number of moving parts in Electric Vehicles shall reduce skilled engineering jobs. In reality, however, introducing electric kit will throw a bigger challenge. The entire design and product development cycle in the process of making electric cars as a reliable product have multiple dimensions.
1. Vehicle dynamics: By locating battery packs under the floor, there is an obvious shift in Center of Gravity of the vehicle and the entire chassis plus suspension needs to be re-tuned and designed to ensure ride & handling of the car for different road profiles
2. Crash & Safety: The present safety compliance & regulations framework like FMVSS, IIHS, NCAP, JNCAP (please pardon the jargons) are mostly dealing with the safety of passengers and the pedestrian protection. But, with EV, the whole safety framework has to be redone including the safety of the battery mounting box, as the battery will be explosive in nature. EV car with hollow front hood is more vulnerable to frontal crash events. This mandates a completely new thought for a redesign of the hood in a modular, easily replaceable, but highly crash proof design.
3. Interiors: EV with autonomous & intelligent seating systems would prompt to re-work on the interiors for better comfort. This can accommodate more ECU’s, telematics and for better aesthetics (Electronic Control Unit)
4. Concept design: It will provide a free hand for concept designers. This is because EV allows more space to play around & cars need not be square in shape anymore!

So, building EV is just not the replacement of ICE with Electric power train. It is building a different car by itself.


The India Context

Engineers are and will continue to be in huge demand as most of automotive OEM’s have their EV programs here. Many have already established their technical and R&D centres in India. Apart from the cost arbitrage, India has a young and highly scalable quality talent suiting this high tech Industry.

India already has about 10 large RnD centres from global OEMs which are working on future EV and related technology. They have created over 30,000 new jobs. The increase spends by them and the Indian Automakers will create another 30,000 new jobs in the next 2 years. World over the next 2 decades the need for some of the skills currently used in manufacturing will drastically reduce. India wouldn’t be affected much as our car to population ratio is still one of the lowest in the world. The gradual retirement of old workers the new workforce required in the electrification of new cars and the increased demand for cars will balance out any correction required in future the workforce.

Electric Future

Over the next decade it is fair to predict that EV and autonomous vehicles shall provide more job opportunities. Emerging technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Connected devices, Infotainment etc in the Auto sector also will create additional jobs. As per Nasscom, the total Automotive Engineering, R & D skilled engineers’ requirements shall increase by at least two-fold.

Over the next decade, India and the world need thousands of engineers to make this transition to EV. Experienced talent is scarce and the supply/demand challenge is already skyrocketing the market prices of the select few.

If there is a time to be in the automobile Industry the next 10 years is the best time. We definitely are having the time of our life recruiting them.

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