West Midlands finds itself its position in the electric car industry
Alucast factory is a company in Walsall that offers sand, gravity, and high-pressure aluminium castings. Many within the factory in the Black Country would be aware of the metalwork processes from several centuries ago where workers pour molten aluminium at 720 degrees celsius into steel molds. This is then pressed into shape before being sanded down to shape parts of British sports cars. However, Alucast is now finding itself amongst the electric car industry.
The UK government has pledged to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars by 2035 and this means Alucast, and others alike, will have to adapt fast. The end of the internal combustion engine has delighted environmentalists and proven incredibly popular within politics but has thrown a sharp corner for workers within the fossil fuel industry.
Nowhere is the challenge more profound than in the West Midlands, the heart of traditional British carmaking and home to brands like Jaguar and Aston Martin. According to the West Midlands Combined Authority, the region hosts a third of all car production in Britain and over 46,000 jobs.
The new electric technology will alter the whole structure of the industry. Electric cars are mechanically simpler, with fewer moving parts meaning carmakers are wanting to do more work in-house. This has forced big brands and small suppliers to re-examine business fundamentals and look at new ways to function.
For Alucast, this has meant hiring for roles that would make new parts, like battery castings. They have also had to invest millions of pounds into precise computer-operated machines and are on a mission to persuade carmakers to use lighter materials like aluminium, as the battery is so heavy that they need to take the weight out of another component.
In any transition of this size within an industry, there will be losers. The West Midlands has already had its fair share of companies that have failed to adapt and keep up. Longbridge, the former home of the MG Rover, now houses an M&S and flats that are named after a famous Austin car. The Jaguar Land Rover factory in Castle Bromwich, which made Spitfires in WW2, will have to end its days of mass production by the end of 2025.
The changes are all for the better, environmentally, but it is sad to see traditional methods and brands suffer. The shift to electric cars will force many manufacturers and suppliers to adapt to eco-friendly processes including producing components that use hydrogen fuel cells, a new technology that could fuel zero-emission lorries. It’s not too late to make the change, but it’s vital for companies to think about how they are going to transition to stay afloat throughout the change. The demand isn’t completely here yet, but it’s coming and there’s time for car part suppliers and manufacturers to plan and prepare.
It’s time to slowly change from fuel to electric cars, and all the better the environment and world we live in.