As the pace of European electric vehicle research and development grows at a dizzying speed, so the list of players jockeying for position – and cash – becomes ever longer.

Just about everyone has a view, whether it be manufacturers, governments – or, increasingly, unionised labour – with the latter viewing EV development if not necessarily as a panacea then certainly as a way to safeguard employment and make up for previous job losses.

There is a head of steam building in the EV world with every day seemingly bringing a raft of announcements surrounding collaboration, investment and technology. Only today (4 May), Ford and Azure announced they would work together on a Transit Connect powertrain for Europe, following collaboration on the model for the US and Canada last year.

And despite the naturally competitive nature of automakers, almost all appear to be embracing generous grants on offer, particularly from the European Union but also from individual governments keen to see this technology develop rapidly.

Of course dining at the Brussels table runs the potential risk that legislators will start to get in the way of hard-nosed commercial decisions, but this is one compromise manufactures may simply have to swallow.

The costs are too great just to go it alone – and if that means a bit of political gamesmanship then so be it – the automakers are a pretty canny lot and can surely hold their own in dealing with the machinations of the EU.

Last week’s great trumpeting of the not-so-snappily named ‘European strategy on clean and energy efficient vehicles,’ was long on promise and short on detail but it is indicative of the way Brussels is moving.

And governments, especially those of the UK, Germany and Ireland, have offered what on the face of it appear particularly generous contributions to consumers wishing to take the plunge, up to GBP5,000 (US$7,550) per model.

Germany’s stated aim of ensuring 1m vehicles on German roads are electric-based by 2020 is startlingly bold – will it put its money where its mouth is? But the fact BMW has lent its considerable weight to the project through its extensive all-electric Mini E model testing programme in the US and Europe gives the idea a fighting chance.

But as well as the agreements, deals and bold predictions of EV take-up, there is also another factor at work in the mix. Unions.

Organised labour has taken a look at EV potential and it likes what it sees. A pliant EU ready to grant significant amounts of finance to develop EV vehicles slightly sugars the bitter pill the unions have had to swallow during the past two years as swathes of automotive jobs have disappeared across the continent, Opel being just one example.

“We are able to predict that the switch to electric vehicles will have a considerable impact on the whole structure of the sector, and particularly on employment,” said the European Metalworkers’ Federation, confidently giving its views on the EU communication.

“The communication reference to employment is somewhat brief but it does open up the possibility for anticipation, jointly organised by the social partners,” it adds.

One of the delicate jobs of the EU – if it is to be at forefront of EV advancement – will be to somehow square the circle of union enthusiasm for the pan-European projects – backed by considerable cash and potential job security – and those from manufacturers who want to develop electric vehicles on a sound business footing.