Anyone who buys an electric car is a job killer. This impression was gained by those who were following the media coverage via a report by the National Platform Future of Mobility (NPM), a panel of experts from the Federal Government. Accordingly, up to 410,000 jobs could be lost in the German automotive industry by 2030 due to the electric car. That would be almost every second job with car manufacturers and suppliers. But if you take a closer look at the report and the background, you will have doubts about this horror scenario.
The NPM uses numbers that have been known for a long time. The number 410,000 jobs comes from a research report by the Institute for Employment Research. It's a top-down view of the impact of electromobility in all economic sectors - not just the auto industry. An "unrealistic approach", it said right away from the VDA, the largest interest group of German car manufacturers. There, the approach of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) is preferred.
Automation is the bigger factor
Basically, it is correct that an electric car is easier to build, so it requires less labor. An internal combustion engine has around 1,400 components, an electric motor needs around 200. The ILO has therefore determined how many people are involved in the manufacture and installation of drives. There are around 210,000 people in Germany. By 2030, 79,000 to 88,000 of them could lose their jobs - up to 42 percent. However, the greater part is due to the fact that companies continue to automate their production. Only 29,000 to 43,000 of these jobs are lost due to the electric motor.
What is known as Industry 4.0 has an even stronger impact off the production lines. Digitization is fully effective in work preparation, logistics, maintenance of production facilities and other indirect production areas. Fewer and fewer people are needed here - completely unrelated to the drive type of a vehicle.
The shift to alternative drives may even cushion this process. A number of car manufacturers place flexible factories in their factories, on which cars with combustion engines, hybrid drives and electric drives are built. "However, due to the greater variety of variants, automation here is more difficult and therefore more expensive," says Manuel Fechter, Business Unit Manager Automotive at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation.
Fechter also sees the impending job cuts, but is convinced that companies can retrain a number of employees. Even today, advances in automation technology can enable skilled workers to control the workflow of robots without in-depth programming knowledge, says Fechter.