Consumer, lawmaker and, most recently, auto manufacturer sentiment is shifting toward electric and hybrid vehicles.
General Motors has announced an ambitious plan to have 30 electric vehicles for sale by 2025 and imagines an “all-electric” future. The savings, extended range and acceleration of EVs make them an attractive option. The mix of consumer demand and automakers’ desires to produce such cars means a coming change for the types of cars rolling into repair shops.
While the world focuses on the new makes and models, auto repair shops need to figure out how to adequately service these new vehicles.
Keep in mind, most electric vehicles on the market today have far fewer moving parts than internal-combustion-engine vehicles. The Chevy Bolt has 80% fewer moving parts than a comparable ICE car, according to The Detroit News. In coming years, repair shops that ignore or delay in preparing for the growth in EV and hybrid car usage may hurt their bottom line, especially if they’re located in areas with high EV adoption.
Now is the time for shops to at least consider investing in the training and tools needed to handle these new vehicles.
When Is the Time to Shift?
The timeframe for prepping a shop for EVs will vary greatly depending on the shop’s focus and the geographic area. A small shop in an Iowa farm town may see considerably fewer EVs than one located in Orange County, CA, although even in California where EV sales are robust, their numbers compared to ICE cars remains small.
Shop owners can look at sales data for their area and add observational information. Do they see more Teslas or Priuses driving around? Are EV charging stations springing up throughout town? Is there an announcement from a large local business that they are changing their delivery fleet to EVs?
As these signs pile up, shop owners that develop their EV and hybrid maintenance skills can get ahead of the curve. They can make investments to help capture market share before the competition with the goal of setting themselves up for repeat year-over-year business.
If other repair shops are promoting EV services and you see them pulling in customers, pay attention and act to remain relevant. If the adoption in your local area is slower, then maybe you have more time to prepare and can hold off on making bold investments – instead, start small by reading about EV and hybrid technology, sign up for webinar training to learn more about EV systems and participate in any classes on the subject offered in your area.
Preparing the Shop
EV maintenance generally costs less than maintenance for their ICE counterparts because they typically have fewer moving parts than a similarly sized combustion-engine-based vehicle. There’s no need for oil changes or fuel-injector cleanings. Far fewer parts must be replaced than those traditionally found in ICE vehicles – such as catalytic converters, oxygen sensors, ignition coils and spark plugs.
However, any car’s tires and shock absorbers will need to be routinely inspected, but auto shops need to prepare to evolve into a combination of IT and auto tech with sophisticated diagnostic and scanning equipment for analysis and updates.
The time and effort involved with prepping a shop for EV repairs relates to the size and scope of the shop. It might take a few years of training and investment for a large chain operation, whereas a smaller one with only a few shops could implement some intensive training faster.
It may be helpful to start with the top experienced maintenance techs and give them some classes mixed in with their regular hours. This way you could have someone function as the in-house expert who can help the other crew members solve EV-specific problems. Relevant training is more accessible than ever, due to demand and COVID-19 pushing more learning opportunities online.
Training classes for EVs and the latest tech advancements could include the following:
- Safety. EV voltages can injure or kill someone. Most manufacturers have in place multiple safety mechanisms to prevent accidents while servicing these components. Training in working on battery apparatus is necessary, as is protective equipment such as insulated tools and high-voltage gloves.
- Tooling. Shops will need OE-recommended tools and equipment that could include insulation meters and resistance meters used to detect problems within motor generator units.
- Technology. Advanced features in all new cars, such as blindspot detection, emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, are complex and require specialized training. Of course, these features are certainly not exclusive to EVs or hybrids, so all shops can benefit from building their knowledge base beyond just mechanical repair to include the latest diagnostics.
Investment in time, training and resources regarding the latest trends in EV and hybrid vehicle development are the main barriers to entry for shop owners. The tools to complete relevant training and the actual products needed to learn more about EV repairs are currently available.
If your shop is already investing in the latest tech tools, then you probably have a head start on the competition when it comes to EVs.
If your shop is behind on the latest tech innovations and does not have any EV or hybrid training, keep an eye on your local community for EV adoptions so you can properly capitalize on the electric future.
Lester Kovacs is director of ideation at Dorman Products, a provider of online training in electric vehicle and hybrid systems.