It’s no secret that Australia is significantly behind when it comes to electric vehicles.

As the Australian government’s consultation paper on a National Electric Vehicle Strategy pointed out when it asked for input last year, we are being sold some of the highest emitting cars in the world.

In 2021, our EV sales were just under two per cent of new light vehicle sales, compared with nine per cent globally – although these figures are set to increase, in part now that talks have begun on fuel emissions standards that would make Australia a less popular dumping ground for car manufacturers.

“The slow uptake of EVs has meant Australia is playing catch-up with other countries which have already recognised the economic opportunities from the EV transition,” says senior policy officer at the Electric Vehicle Council, Natalie Thompson.

Those economic opportunities include jobs. We don’t yet know how many people work in the EV sector, although the Australian Government is attempting to find out, via the Australian Energy Employment Report, a national survey which closes on 30 April.

However, we know jobs in the sector already exist: in charging infrastructure manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance; in sales and customer service, operations and software development; and in policy development, infrastructure planning and economic analysis.

As our EV adoption increases, so will the demand for skilled workers. The industry is already seeing workers from the existing automotive industry make the switch.

“It’s important we support skills and training initiatives to enable this transition,” says Thompson.

Australian companies are already employing locals to cater to a future will involve not just electric vehicles, but autonomous ones. In Melbourne, Applied AV has developed Blanc Robot, a tool that can take on transport’s “dull, dirty, dangerous and dear jobs” in environments that are unpleasant or dangerous for humans.

It’s part of the company’s work in autonomous vehicles, transport and software development. Since launching in 2015, Applied AV has grown to a team of 100.

CEO and co-founder, Julian Broadbent, says it’s an exciting industry to be part of: “Eventually, every vehicle worldwide will become electric,” he says. “Careers in AV technology provide the satisfaction, freedom and agility to the boundaries of what’s possible.”

Broadbent says workers with skills in engineering and electronics are needed, and user experience experts will also play a key role in the growth of an autonomous vehicle market.

“As digital vehicle architecture is a new industry, user experience (UX) forms the cornerstone of the business to purposely develop software around people and safety,” he says.

Thompson from the Electric Vehicle Council also sees a future where engineers and electricians with knowledge of EV design and energy systems are in demand. They will be needed to roll out charging infrastructure across the country, and to retrofit existing homes and apartments to accommodate EVs.

“If Australia acts quickly and supports the expansion of a local EV industry, we have the opportunity to create jobs across mining, manufacturing EVs and components as well as recycling. This won’t happen by itself–we need government to follow the lead of the US and others to provide strong support for Australia to capitalise on this once-in-a-generation economic opportunity,” Thompson says.

Extracted in full from: Electric cars: Bring Australia up to speed (