Licensing and accreditation scheme for technicians working on automated and electric vehicles

Part of Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 23 March 2017.

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Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:45, 23 March 2017

The short answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s questions is: no, no and no. The new clause would not require a licensed technician to check the tyres or change a lightbulb. That is why it asks the Government to bring forward regulations for the kind of accreditation scheme that would be brought in. I also do not believe it would lead to a high cost—in fact, quite the reverse, for reasons I will come on to talk about.

The main thing is that there is a high risk if untrained technicians attempting to work on these kinds of vehicle. I make no bones about this: it could put lives at risk. The battery pack on an electric vehicle carries up to 600 V. If someone needs certification—it used to be called CORGI certification—to repair a gas boiler, is it too much to say that they need some kind of accreditation or qualification to work on future vehicles? Even electricians conducting electrical work in our homes have to be licensed to do so. That is for households that typically run on 240 V AC. For EVs, we are talking about 600 V, and sometimes more. This is about the safety of the vehicles themselves, the people who work on them, those who drive them and other road users around them.

The new clause’s main purpose is safety, but it is not just about that. It is also about enhancing skills, providing mobility and progression for technicians, and giving market certainty about safety standards. I think it could have a wider impact on issues such as insurance uptake and viability. That is the answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question. I think that if it is not addressed, the skills shortages could result in higher repair and insurance costs. In some ways, that is already happening. There are already concerns about the insurance costs of some electric vehicles and ultra low emission vehicles. Some insurance charges for EVs are estimated to be as much as 50% higher than their petrol and diesel equivalents. That is because of the assessment made of the nature of the technologies involved.

We believe, as do a number of stakeholders, that the Government should consider introducing an accreditation scheme for technicians who will work on those future vehicles. They have to look at the details of that and at how it can avoid the kind of unintended consequences that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. If the Government introduce a scheme, they will be promoting safety and supporting the growth of the new generation of vehicles, in the way that we all want to see.