Robert Nicol has a pedigree that is soaked in petrol and diesel, and yet he has been able to evolve from fossil fueled vehicles to electric vehicles. His father worked for Toyota as a “master service technician” for more than 25 years in Australia. Robert’s first career was in automotive service, starting as an apprentice “engine reconditioner” and rising up to his last job as a service manager for a General Motors dealership. He has had two careers, the second career as an ambulance officer for over 26 years, showing that he is able to evolve. He has now evolved into a retired EV driver with a red Tesla Model Y. At our last “Coffee Cake and EVs” morning at the Bracken Ridge Tavern, I asked for his thoughts on the future of the vehicle support industry. This is what he told me. …
Some people rally on about solar and wind to power the EV market. I believe it’s more about Australian jobs and using resources wisely.
Think about it from this perspective:
1. Where does the oil come from to make petrol and diesel for Australian vehicles?
2. Where does the coal and gas that powers Australian Electricity come from?
To answer question #1, oil usually comes from an oil well in the Middle East, some does come from Australian waters. Most of this oil is converted into petrol or diesel in Singapore. (There are 2 relatively small refineries in Australia — Geelong in Victoria, and Lytton QLD.) The fuel is then shipped to Australian ports where train or truck tankers disseminate it around the country to servos (gas stations), where you then fill your tank with fuel at around $2.00 per litre.
Question #2: Coal and gas are sourced from various parts of Australia. It’s dug up and transported by train or truck to Australian ports and shipped overseas or trucked or piped to local coal or gas-fired power stations, where it is burnt to make electricity. This is then distributed via high-voltage power lines around the country and eventually ends up being consumed by Australian residents or companies.
Sure, there are plenty of jobs created by the oil industry. Most of those are foreign, whereas most if not all of the coal and gas generates Australian jobs.
Now, I am not sure of the numbers of jobs created by oil versus coal and gas. However, I would believe a far greater number of Australian jobs are created by coal and gas.
Should we use oil to fuel our transport? Think about the fact that oil is a finite resource. What other items do we make using oil? Things such as plastics spring to mind. Shouldn’t we preserve the finite oil reserves that we have for making items that we can only make out of oil. These items are usually recyclable and by doing so will push our finite oil reserves to last a lot longer.
At the moment, diesel is needed as fuel for trucks etc. to transport items around the country. This is a given; however, by converting our vehicles to EV at an orderly but aggressive rate, we can find solutions to the issues of using oil and non-reusables responsibly. Ever thought how much vinyl and plastic is inside a modern car, including EVs? It’s all oil-based products and can be recycled.
Fuelling EVs: About 80% of EVs are fuelled while at home. We could also transition to solar panels on home and business roofs, and then not only would it be renewable, it would be quite cheap and not place that great a burden on the electricity grid. If shopping centres were to replace the shade sails in their carparks with solar PVs, this would go a long way to off-grid refuelling.
How many people have jobs in the automotive field fixing and repairing cars and trucks? How many trades are there tied into the oil automotive industry?
- Car dealerships
- Servo staff
- Fuel tanker drivers
- Petrol and diesel motor mechanics
- Auto electricians
- Engine reconditioners
- Tyre industry
- Suspension fitters
- Panel beaters
- Radiator repairers
- And the list will go on.
Just like everything else, businesses will need to evolve from ICE to electric. I remember the ‘70s when V8’s were king. You could hot them up by reconditioning them with modified parts. In fact, any internal combustion engine could achieve more horsepower or economy with a specialist tradesman spending time working on it. Those trades have diminished over time as cars have become computerised. Engine reconditioning has been a dying trade and will eventually go the way of Kodak. I evolved to another career in the mid ’90s because I could see most petrol engine work was dying off, even back then. Diesel work is currently keeping those businesses still around, alive.
Vehicle dealerships will probably change. However, people still need cars delivered. Whether this requires High Street frontage or a warehouse, time will tell. It all costs the consumer money. Vehicles are becoming more reliable, why not evolve to having the technician drive to you, rather than you drop your car off to them, if possible. Time is money to a working person, be it taking a day off to get the car serviced or whatever it is that needs to be done at a dealership that can be efficiently achieved via an app, over-the-air software updates, and a few photos.
With EVs coming to the fore, which trades will change and disappear? Fuel tanker drivers will move to hauling different products. Petrol and diesel mechanics have plenty of training in electronics these days. Anyone who wants a job working in the automotive industry just needs to future proof themselves. Just like every other career has to these days.
Servo attendants will still be needed, as these sites have mostly evolved into the corner store already. Add in a solar panel shade roof, a large storage battery, and several AC trickle chargers plus a couple of DC fast chargers and their future is assured. If the suburban servo were on a major bus route, their spare forecourt could be converted into an AC trickle charging carpark for bus commuters.
EVs have radiators in them, mostly for the sealed traction battery for heating/cooling. Most radiator shops have disappeared already because of plastic radiators in ICE vehicles.
EVs are still involved in prangs and need panel beaters.
EVs will need auto electricians more than ever.
EVs need tyre and suspension shops.
With the evolution from ICE to electric, some trades will naturally die off, others will flourish and grow, still others will be created. Just like previous generations have done, we must continue to evolve. Dinosaurs didn’t, humans did!
Featured image: The Nicol family with their new Tesla Model Y. Photo courtesy of Rob Nicol.
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