How Auto Mechanics Can Prepare for Electric Vehicles
As society intensifies its focus on sustainability, electric vehicles (EVs) are on the rise for both commercial and personal use. Between government incentives, inexpensive energy prices, and leading car manufacturers embracing EVs, the shift is in motion. As more and more businesses are adding electric vehicles to their fleets, there is a growing need for EV auto mechanics.
Although electric vehicles require less maintenance and repair than gas-powered vehicles, EVs still need maintenance on tires and wheels, braking systems, windows, and more. They will also require technological maintenance and repair for their internal systems. To adjust to the forecasted boost in EV sales, auto mechanics must have the technical knowledge to service EVs, which means investing in training, getting the right tools and safety equipment, and embracing the EV revolution.
The Rise of EVs
Many countries embracing the growth of EVs are planning to phase out gas-powered vehicles to encourage EV sales. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analyst Aleksandra O’Donovan says about global EV sales trends, “We expect more than 10 million will be sold globally, with vast majority of them being pure electric. China will lead the way again, followed by Europe, but we do expect EV sales in the U.S. to nearly double in 2022.”
In the United States, individual cities and states are taking action. In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that by 2035 all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California must be zero-emission. Washington DC recently joined Orlando, FL, Pittsburg, PA, and other cities mandating that any new commercial and multi-unit buildings that offer parking places must also have EV charging stations.
General Motors is aiming to have 30 electric vehicles available globally by 2025. Part of their goal is to create affordable and stylish models for the public. The general public is largely hesitant to invest in EVs due to their cost and functionality, and GM and other automakers are helping to close the gap. GM has invested almost $750 million to support charging station installation in residential driveways, workplaces, and public areas. GM is just one of the major brands embracing EVs.
Anticipated Challenges for Auto Mechanics
Less Maintenance Means Less Business
Although it’s true that EVs require less maintenance than their gas-powered counterparts, they still have parts that need maintenance, such as brakes, tires, suspensions, windshields, and windows. Additionally, since there are so many technical aspects to EVs, there’s an increasing need for experienced technicians. Untrained auto mechanics cannot safely handle the high-voltage wires in EVs.
Hesitation to Change
One anticipated challenge for auto mechanics is the hesitation to embrace the EV revolution. However, technological advancements are not new to the automotive industry. Since the first automobile was manufactured, vehicle technology has been evolving. In the last 20 years alone, technical advances include remote starting, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, advanced entertainment, GPS systems, and so much more. Auto mechanics had to adjust to each new technology, and electric vehicles are no exception.
Education and Training
Since the EV landscape is so new, not all education and training programs teach electric vehicle maintenance. Many training classes that do are provided by manufacturers and are exclusive to dealerships. This makes training harder to find and often more expensive for small and independent dealerships.
Small/Private Shops Keeping Up
In any market, mom and pop shops have to keep up with big companies. The auto business is no different. Smaller shops struggle to keep up with large brand auto dealerships, which may offer a one-stop-shop. Some training is offered free or discounted to dealerships and may not be offered at all to private shops.
Ways to Prepare Your Shop
There is a growing need for experienced and EV-certified technicians. Investing in training and education is a great way for auto shops to secure their spot in the future automotive industry. Remember, this doesn’t need to be an overnight change. You can start with enrolling one or a few enthusiastic employees in training or certification courses. There are numerous in-person and online training options, and more are being developed and will be offered in the future.
Auto shops may consider hiring a certified EV technician to provide training or teach classes to interested employees. Another option is to send one employee to a class to get certified and relay the information to your company. However, this is a short-term solution and every mechanic should get trained eventually.
Virtual training and education courses have grown since the pandemic and are here to stay. They provide access and convenience and are often a more affordable option than in-person classes.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers a Light Duty Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Specialist Test (L3) for advanced vehicle technicians. Test takers must have passed the Automobile Electrical/Electronic Systems (A6) and Engine Performance (A8) tests.
General Motors partners with over 50 community colleges across the country to teach the Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP), a hands-on auto service training program that includes a curriculum on EVs, PHEVs, and hybrid vehicles.
Key Focus Areas for Auto Shops
Update Your Tools
Technicians must take precautions when working on electric vehicles, including using the appropriate tools when handling high-voltage electric systems. Tools should be insulated and continually inspected for worn, missing, or broken insulation. Rubber safety gloves are also important when working on an electric battery or converter.
Be familiar with the different types of batteries
For electric vehicles and hybrids, there are a variety of battery types. Auto shops should educate their employees about the types of batteries, which include:
- Lithium-Ion Batteries
- Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries
- Lead-Acid Batteries
Become Charging Champions
With the increase in commercial and private EV sales comes the increase in charging stations. Having technicians that can install charging stations is a great differentiator for any auto shop.
As the EV revolution continues to gain momentum, the question of adoption (and acceptance) is a matter of “when” and not “if”. EV technology is getting more efficient and affordable, and both businesses and the general public are embracing these more sustainable vehicles. Auto mechanics have the best chance of success by educating themselves about EV maintenance and becoming EV tech experts.
Drew Young serves as the Fixed Operations Director at Merchants Auto. He has over 40 years of experience managing auto dealer service and parts departments, ensuring that the best possible service is provided to customers, employees and vendors.