Servicing and repairing electric cars requires new skills

Many workshops will be out of a job

10/25/2021 3:26:00 AM

As vehicle technologies advance, garages will face more changes

Many workshops will be out of a job

Wh battery. The chassis belongs to a 260kph Taycan, Porsche’s first fully electric vehicle (EV). Cables, bright orange in warning, snake across it to a pair of motors and other electronic gubbins. As many a mechanic, professional and amateur, knows, fiddling with the 12

Vsystem of a typical internal-combustion engine (ICE) can give you a nasty electrical jolt. But this battery delivers 800V. Though it is fitted with safety systems, that is enough for a knockout punch that could kill you.The knife Mr Brügger talks of is special. It has a blunt vibrating blade, like those used by doctors to remove plaster casts without damaging the patient. After some 160 bolts have been removed it can be slid under the edge of the battery’s cover to cut away the glue used to seal it tight. This reveals 33 modules containing the lithium-ion cells that constitute most

EVbatteries. With the cover off, a faulty module can be swapped for a new one.Assault and batteryThe battery is the most costly component in anEV. It typically represents about 30% of the value of the car when new. At present, if something goes wrong with a battery it is usually replaced with a new one because dealers’ service centres do not have the ability to undertake internal repairs. As a replacement battery can cost $20,000 or so for some

EVs, that is an expensive proposition. If the car is fairly new and the battery still under its warranty (which usually lasts around eight years), the manufacturer picks up the tab. But asEVs get older and fall in value, many owners may decide to scrap their cars prematurely, rather than fork out such sums.

Some 45% of COemissions involved in making anEVarise from producing the battery, so it makes sense to repair them and keep the vehicle on the road. Porsche reckons this can be done for about 20% of the cost of fitting a new battery. Most faults are caused by the failure of an individual module or cell. If fixed properly, the company reckons, they can provide many more years of service. Eventually, batteries will give up the ghost. When that happens carmakers aim to recycle them, in order to recover the valuable materials they contain and then use those to make new batteries.

Reparable batteries are good news forEVowners, but for garages they mean investing in specialist equipment, and also training technicians to do the work. Some of this investment is necessary to carry out even routine work onEVs. But as the skills required have more to do with electrical engineering, computing and software than wielding a spanner, there are other industries competing for this talent.

A looming shortage ofEVtechnicians is causing concern in many countries. On October 18th, for example, the Institute of the Motor Industry, which represents Britain’s motor trade, said some 90,000 new automotive technicians will be required to service and repair

EVs by 2030. As of last year, just 6.5% of Britain’s mechanics were qualified to do such work. Steve Nash, the institute’s boss, says that with the pace at whichEVs are being adopted accelerating, government support is needed to boost training programmes and avoid a big skills gap.

The specialist equipment required, including high-voltage tools, computer diagnostics and safety gear, is expensive. Reportedly, Cadillac, part of General Motors, has told its American dealerships they will need to spend an average of $200,000 on tools and training if they want to stay with the marque as it becomes all-electric. Industry reports say some have thrown in the towel, but others see a chance to expand.

Many garages, especially small operators who look after older cars, may be reluctant to invest such sums.EVs are unlikely to make them as much money as cars withICEs. Having fewer moving parts to wear out,EVs are more reliable and require less maintenance than

Read more: The Economist »


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