The boss of Halfords has sounded the alarm on skills shortage to service electric cars as a surge in demand for bikes and cycling equipment during lockdown boosts profits.
Graham Stapleton said the retailer was witnessing the shift to electric "in real terms" after a 78pc year-on-year jump in the number of hybrid cars coming through its service centres.
However, he warned there was a skills gap in the industry that meant it could be difficult to keep up with demand.
Mr Stapleton's remarks came after Boris Johnson unveiled a ban on new petrol and diesel cars in UK from 2030 to help tackle climate change.
“Around 11m cars will be electric hybrids by 2020. There’s a lot of skills shortage in the UK, and businesses will have to double the number of technicians every year to manage that number of cars,” he said.
Halfords has been recruiting more staff to train them as electric cars demand a different set of skills around software and technology.
The FTSE 250 firm said pre-tax profits doubled to £55m for the six months to Oct 2 as it run of strong trading continued.
Group sales jumped by almost a tenth to £638m over the period, as higher bicycle sales helped to offset a softer market for motoring accessories.
Cycling-related sales across Halfords' 440 stores were 54pc higher than the same period last year, as guidance for people to avoid public transport drove demand for new bikes.
It also reported a spike in demand for electric bikes and scooters, with sales from its “e-mobility” division increasing by 184pc.
The company’s shares have surged almost 70pc since the stock market crash in February but reversed an earlier surge to fall 4.6pc on Wednesday to 250p.
Halfords has said it will increase its investment into electrical motoring, committing to having at least one electric car technician at each of its 367 garages, with electric bike and scooter servicers in all stores.
Mr Stapleton said he was “very pleased” with its trading performance against the backdrop of “one of the most challenging trading environments in recent history”.
“It is a great testament to the strength and adaptability of our business, as well as to the professionalism, hard work and dedication of our colleagues,” he added.
“As an essential retailer and service provider, we are proud to be able to help keep the UK moving during these exceptionally challenging and uncertain times.”
Nicholas Hyett at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Its stores have benefited from a cycling boom over the lockdown, with sales of electric bikes and scooters nearly tripling.
“The uptick in cycling interest may be out of Halfords' hands, but an increasingly knowledgeable staff and excellent inventory management meant it was waiting for customers at the right time, with the right product.”