FRANKFURT -- The switch to electric cars will put 75,000 engine and gearbox manufacturing jobs at risk, a study commissioned by German trade unions and the auto industry showed.
The auto industry accounts for 840,000 jobs in Germany, of which 210,000 are tied to powertrain production, according to the Fraunhofer Institute of Industrial Engineering, which conducted the study.
The rollout of emissions-free vehicles creates some new jobs, in the area of vehicle electronics and batteries, but EVs will result in less work for assembly workers, Germany's trade union IG Metall warned.
"By 2030 every second job in passenger car powertrain will be impacted directly or indirectly by electromobility," IG Metall said about the study, which is based on data provided by Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen Group and suppliers Bosch, ZF, Schaeffler.
"Politicians and industry now need to develop strategies to manage this transformation," said IG Metall's chief, Joerg Hofmann.
Companies need to embark on sweeping job retraining schemes to qualify workers for new technologies while politicians need to come up with a comprehensive industrial and employment policy, Hofmann said.
The 75,000 threatened jobs are based on the assumption that 25 percent of all cars will be full electric by 2030, 15 percent plug-in hybrids, and 60 percent gasoline and diesel variants.
A more rapid adoption of EVs could threaten 100,000 jobs, IG Metall said.
VW's top labor representative Bernd Osterloh said EV powertrains have only a sixth of the components when compared to combustion-engine variants, which means EVs can be assembled more quickly.
EVs take 30 percent less time to assemble than current passenger vehicles, Osterloh said.
A battery factory requires only a fifth of the workforce when compared with an engine plant, the labor boss said.
BMW labor representative Peter Cammerer said German industry should beware of giving away technology and know-how to Chinese, Korean and Japanese competitors. Germany is leading in terms of battery cell research but is giving battery contracts to foreign suppliers, Cammerer said.
"We need to be selling innovations to the Chinese and not the other way around," Cammerer said.
While the impact on employment seems relatively modest, the fallout "might still be significant for individual manufacturers or regions," said Oliver Riedel, a Fraunhofer director. "The technology shift might move some jobs outside of Germany," he said.
Electric autos will overtake consumer electronics this year as the largest source of lithium ion battery demand, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in a report published Friday. The anticipated surge to more than 1,500 gigawatt-hours a year by 2030 for electric cars and buses, from 44 GWh last year, will require more investments in battery-cell manufacturing.
That will require a shift toward Asia for powertrain operations that are now combustion-based and centered in Germany.
VW has been reviewing options for producing cells for new-technology batteries to tap into a market now largely controlled by Asian manufacturers Samsung, Panasonic and LG Chem. China's Contemporary Amperex Technology, or CATL, has embarked on an aggressive expansion push in the world's largest auto market and abroad that underscores the systems' strategic importance for future vehicles.
Bosch, the world's biggest supplier, decided just over three months ago against setting up its own battery-cell production, citing huge costs of some 20 billion euros ($23 billion) to gain a fifth of the global market and ensure sufficient scale.
"I see the job-numbers drop as being much more drastic than described in the study," Bosch works council chief Hartwig Geisel said. The company is the world's largest supplier of diesel-engine systems, and some 20,000 German jobs hinge on the technology that's come under fire in the wake of VW's emissions-cheating scandal. Bosch operates diesel-focused factories in economically weaker regions like Saarland or Bavaria's Franconia district that would be particularly hard hit, he said.
Bloomberg contributed to this report