Given India’s enormous market and its inherent advantages with labor supplies (at least) over the western markets, skilling the country’s workforce to be employment-ready for EVs is essential. Photo: Autobot Academy

Is India’s automotive workforce ready for an EV future?

The Indian EV market is doing well enough that parity between e-two wheelers and conventional two wheelers may arrive by 2027, while four-wheelers may reach the threshold by 2030. With EVs becoming as affordable as ICE vehicles, and with much lower running costs, they can soon become the preferred vehicle choice and achieve mass penetration. This points to a seismic shift waiting in the wings for the automotive sector — with higher market share of EVs comes the question of EV versus ICE jobs.

New market forces 

The future of India’s roughly 270,000-strong automotive workforce is not clearly outlined since the switch to manufacturing EVs will come with several challenges and will require new skills. Here’s how the automotive landscape may change as electric mobility grows:

  1. An electric car has far fewer moving parts than its ICE counterpart — typically 20 vs. more than 2000 for ICEVs —  which means fewer manufacturing jobs in that respect alone. The same is true for 2Ws, 3Ws and heavy-duty vehicles.
  2. EVs’ after-sales service requires specific technical proficiency and certain minimum standards of safety to minimise the risk of damaging the electrical components, and to safeguard the individuals that work on high-voltage battery packs. This means that mechanics that work on ICE vehicles will have to be reskilled or they face the prospect of losing relevance in the next 20-30 years.
  3. India lags well behind in battery manufacturing and imports around 70% of its EV batteries from China. The Indian governments’ requirement that Indian OEMs source at least 50% of their components from domestic players is already being flouted, presumably over price and quality concerns.
  4. In many parts of the world, personal vehicle ownership is giving way to quick, affordable transport that minimises ownership costs. This is true for the USthe UK, the other OECD nations and even for India, as the 2019 slump in vehicle sales showed just how saturated the market is for new auto sales. This means a contraction in ICE vehicle sales going forward and a drop in their manufacturing jobs, while shared mobility that’s also powered by batteries is expected to be the way forward.
  5. Manufacturers must be hyper-focused on the cost of the final product to ward off competitors. This leads to growing their investments into automation and switching over tasks to robotic assembly lines, where possible.

Yet, this transition will open up several avenues for employment as EVs are not just being pursued for personal use, but rather as replacements for even heavy vehicles (trucks and buses), trains, ships and airliners. These will demand heavy investments into modernising the existing production hubs or to set up new facilities, and they will need plenty of workers. Most importantly, given its enormous market and its inherent advantages with labour supplies (at least) over the western markets, skilling India’s workforce to be employment-ready for EVs is essential.

Where does India’s automotive workforce stand today? 

EV sales in India are expected to reach 17 million units by 2030 and by 2026 the industry will have created an estimated 65 million direct and indirect jobs. The trouble is, while 24% of China’s workforce has officially received skilled training (the figure is even higher for South Korea at 96%), India’s figure stands at a mere 2.2%.

That’s a staggering difference. The figure was released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) in 2015 and it went on to say that only 10.8% of the country’s workforce has received any skills training at all, and 8.6% of that can at best be classified as informal. So while the numbers may have improved marginally since, they point to a vast chasm of unskilled workers that need formal training to become capable of EV manufacturing jobs. The gap is so huge that unless it is mitigated over the next decade, India may only be viewed as a low-cost assembling hub for expensive, high-end components that are designed and manufactured abroad.

What skills does India’s automotive workforce need to be EV ready? 

Apart from the basic difference of a battery pack and electrical motors versus. an IC engine, EVs also feature an array of electronics for user interfaces and vehicle management. This is most evident in the class-leading Tesla cars, which offer virtually no mechanical controls for the owners and make use of over-the-air software updates to continually improve their performance. The same idea has been carried over to its competitors like Ford, GM and several Chinese manufacturers. In fact, in China 56% of electric car owners say that they would switch brands if the competitor offered better in-car electronics.

Fig. 1: The minimalist electronic interface and over-the-air updates make
Tesla cars one of the most sought-after EVs | Source: Teslarati.com

However, the following table highlights the sections for each technology that do overlap, and the ones that are unique to EVs. It shows how important electronics, chemical engineering, material science and mechatronics (mechanical and electronic engineering) will be if India’s workforce is to be employed in EV R&D and manufacturing. Also of equal importance will be the training and re-skilling of service technicians to work on battery packs and run diagnostic tests on EVs’ performance. This is a segment that does not quite exist in India’s automotive workforce since the technology has no equivalent in ICE vehicles.

The job category abbreviations are taken from an OECD 2017 classification and are:

  1. TVET: Technical and Vocational Education and Training
  2. NEET: Not in Employment, Education and Training

What’s particularly concerning is that 30% of India’s youth, from the ages of 15 – 29, fall under NEET and this is an obstacle for the country to quickly scale up production lines, or even to design new products.

Table 1: Skills needed for EV manufacturing and overlaps with ICE vehicles. Source: Skilling Indians for an EV-Ready World, February 2022; Ola Mobility Institute 

Research & Development 
Automotive/ EV Category EV Job Category Skills needed for EVs Overlap with ICE
Vehicle Transmission Electronic power train, efficient power transfer, wiring system Electrical & Electronics Engineering X
Design Futuristic looks (new design requirements), Optimal weight distribution Designing and understanding of design systems Vehicle system engineering (simulation & modelling) Required for ICE but a few aspects are also needed for EV designing, like battery weight/ position etc.
Aerodynamics Mechanical Engineering
Vehicle Testing Vehicle safety Mechanical Engineering Required for ICE but considering the different electrical/ electronic components in EVs, the knowledge need on safety will be more for EVs
Driver monitoring Computer Engineering
Battery safety Electrical Engineering X
Fire training Knowledge of electrical systems and handling high voltage batteries Because of high voltage components in EVs, there will be additional skilling requirements
Software Autonomous driver assisted vehicle technology, Infotainment systems Computers and Electronics Engineering
Connectivity Computers and Machine Learning Much more prevalent in EVs
AI-enabled technology Machine Learning
Vehicle performance monitoring Computers/ Mechanical/ Electrical and Electronics Engineering
Battery management Computers/ Mechanical/ Electrical and Electronics Engineering X
Battery Technology Efficient power usage Electrical and Electronics Engineering X
Battery composition Chemical engineering X
End-of-life management Supply chain/ Electrical/Environmental/ Chemical/ Mechanical engineering X
High voltage systems, Battery system Electrical, Chemical engineering and Electronics Engineering X
Cell technology & Drive trains Electrical, Electronics, Chemical, Mechanical engineering X
Charging Infrastructure RE integration Electrical, Electronics, Power System Engineering X
Charging technology (fast, slow, wireless, swap etc.) Electrical, PowerSystem Engineering, Mechatronics X
Charging operations management Logistics, digital/app-based skills to understand and operate online payment modes X
Manufacturing
Vehicle Transmission and other hardware components Manufacturing and assembly of vehicle components (electronic power train, wiring system etc) Electrical & Electronics Engineering Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce X
Vehicle Body Vehicle body manufacturing, Assembly line Vehicle system engineering (simulation & modelling) Required for ICE but a few aspects are also needed for EV designing, like battery weight/ position etc.
Understanding vehicle body parts, assembly line Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce
Battery Technology Manufacturing batteries Electrical Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce X
Battery Management system Electrical, Chemical, Mechanical engineering Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce X
Sales
Sales EV Sales Need to understand the features of the EVs Includes trained TVET workforce X
Driving EV Driving Need to sensitise the drivers to drive an EV. They need to understand the difference while operating an ICE and EV. Includes trained NEET workforce X
Service
Service Service Technician (Mechanical components) Service requirements for brake system, vehicle body and components
Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce
Service Technician (Electrical & Electronic components) Service requirements for motor, wires, controller, voltage regulator, electronic ignition and fuel metering Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce X
Service Technician for battery and motor related to EVs Service requirements for battery pack, cells, software upgradation, electronic parts servicing, diagnostic and testing Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce X
Operating digital interface Soft skill requirement of knowing English and few other languages to read a manual Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce
Vehicle Safety Sensitisation for handling EV batteries and other high voltage components during servicing Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce X
EoL (end of life) Collection Safe battery handling, safe transportation, fire safety Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce
Battery Testing, Segregation Chemical, Electrical Includes trained TVET workforce X
Recycling Chemical, Electrical, Safe battery handling, safe transportation, fire safety Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce
Safety in disposal Sensitization is required while safely disposing the hazardous materials (electronic components will be higher in EVs) Includes trained NEET, TVET workforce X

India’s progress towards skilling in the EV sector 

India has taken note of the situation, though. The country does produce several thousand graduates in mechanical, electronics, electrical and IT engineering every year. Going forward, however, many more engineers are expected to contribute to the EV transition as premier institutes like IIT Roorkee, Delhi and Kharagpur and the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) have already started offering courses and research facilities for EVs.

This is supported by training modules on EVs by the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) — a joint initiative by the IITs and the IISC (Indian Institute of Science). The Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC), too, offers similar courses to equip its students with the most industry-relevant skills. Of course, the key to good training will be quality control and standardisation so that the graduates are employed at near-identical skills levels, regardless of the institute of certification.

Fig 2: Participants undergoing a training on battery design © Autobot Academy

The following table lists the various EV training courses available in India today

Table 2: Institutions offering EV-related courses and training modules in India (May 2021)

ARAI & NPTEL (initiative of IITs & IISc) – short training and online courses on EVsASDC + DIYguru – Electric Mobility NanodegreeASDC + MG Motor + Autobot India – EV training programme, DakshtaASDC + SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) EV coursesFADA (Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations) EV courses
ACMA (Automotive Components Manufacturers Association of India) EV coursesIIT Delhi – M-Tech in Electric MobilityIIT Kharagpur, Roorkee, Bombay, Madras – Course on Electric MobilityUPES (University of Petroleum and Energy Studies) – Course on Electric MobilityMarwadi University (Masters in Electric Vehicles Engineering)
Gujarat Institute Solar Energy (GISE) EV courseTATA Power Skill Development Institute (TPSDI) EV coursesEMF Innovations EV coursePragyatmika (Research and Training Company) EV courseAcademy of EV Technology
Devise Electronics EV courseMakerMax Inc. (Online Learning Portal) EV courseHaritha TechLogix (Consultancy and Training Service) EV coursepManifold EV Training and Certification ProgrammeSkillShark EduTech EV course
Ready for Future (Online Learning Platform) EV courseAmika Global EducationLogiczap Technologies Training Institute EV coursePrudent Consultants EV courseTesla EV Academy – numerous EV courses
Decibels Lab EV courseAutoBot India (Consultancy and Training Service) EV courseRosefield Energy Tech Pvt. Ltd. EV course
Source: Skilling Indians for an EV-Ready World, February 2022; Ola Mobility Institute

How can India bridge the skilling gap to be future ready 

China’s success as a leader in manufacturing EVs derives immensely from the courses its students are able to pursue. The government reportedly worked with the major players, such as SAIC, BYD and BAIC, to develop customised training modules and consequently, the graduates were hired by the manufacturers with the right set of skills. The skills the recruits possessed enabled the manufacturers to restructure their supply chains and assembly lines to strengthen their EV outputs.

India, too, needs to ensure that the quality of its EV training courses are second to none, and that the training is always designed in conjunction with the employers. The Centre’s target of selling 30% of all new vehicles as EVs by 2030 is bold and achievable, but it has to be backed by tapping into the vast human resource the country offers, and restructuring their education to make them industry-ready the very day they graduate.

This article was first published at the Clean Mobility Shift.

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