Nuclear France tipped as winner in electric car shake-up

Germany projected to lose jobs if policymakers aim for an all-electric future

An electric vehicle at a Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Dresden, Germany. Bloomberg

An electric car revolution could make France a winner because of its ready nuclear power supply and Germany a loser because of major job losses, a report found.

Although both countries are promoting electric vehicles as a way to meet their climate targets, analysts believe the shake-up would affect them differently.

A study by consultants PwC, commissioned by auto industry body Clepa, said Germany could suffer a 55 per cent drop in car manufacturing jobs by 2040 if policymakers aim for an electric-only future.

Although Germany would start to feel economic benefits by the 2030s if it moves quickly to phase out petrol cars, the “delta of employment is massive” over the next decade, forecasters said.

Germany’s high labour standards mean traditional car makers are more likely to choose Eastern Europe for their “last man standing” combustion engine factories, the report said.

It said half a million jobs could be lost across Europe, with only some of them replaced by the more automated battery production process.

In France, by contrast, car industry employment is projected to be 13 per cent higher by 2040 and the wider economic benefits greater.

This is because of its projected low energy costs, its large supply of low-carbon electricity, and a smaller combustion engine industry to be phased out.

France gets about 70 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power stations, which, despite broader environmental and safety concerns, have a minimal effect on warming the planet.

The government has moved to support zero-emission cars by offering drivers a bonus of up to €6,000 ($6,790) for buying a new electric vehicle.

“France is forecasted to be an EV technology profiteer,” said the report, which highlighted the country’s “good CO2 footprint based on its mix of nuclear and renewable energy sources”.

Steam rises from the cooling towers of one of Germany's last nuclear power stations, which will be switched off by next year. Getty

Germany, meanwhile, is switching off its last nuclear plants next year and still relies on coal for a large chunk of its electricity supply.

It is part of a coalition of anti-nuclear countries who want to banish atomic energy from a list of recommended green investments.

Berlin has not given its flagship auto industry a date by which petrol car sales will be banned. But the EU wants to set a 2035 date.

The new government in Germany hopes to encourage the private sector to make the shift sooner – a compromise between the liberals and environmentalists in the Cabinet.

It plans to have a million charging stations in place by 2030 and sees the green transition as a way of securing “future-proof jobs”.

Some car makers, including Germany’s Mercedes, signed a manifesto at the Cop26 summit, which promises to strive for an all-electric vehicle market by 2040.

It was supported by US manufacturers Ford and General Motors, the UK government, and British car maker Jaguar, among others.

But Clepa, the industry body, used the study to argue against an electric vehicle-only policy.

“It is critical that we put jobs with automotive suppliers front and centre when managing the social and economic impact of the transformation,” said secretary general Sigrid de Vries.

Updated: December 9th 2021, 10:10 AM