For technicians and consumers, there are both benefits and drawbacks.
We’ve all seen the news about the coming electric vehicle revolution, yet hype is one thing, reality another. For most OEMs the push for EVs is not being driven by consumer or market demand but government legislation and emissions targets.
There are also questions around the viability of charging infrastructure and the practical application of EVs for both short and longer-distance operation.
In the service bay, there’s also the question of how you should be prepared to service electric vehicles and what kind of investments in equipment and technician training you need.
Who is your customer?
Before diving in, you need to really understand who your customer base is and the types of vehicles they actually drive. Even if they do own an electric vehicle, chances are they own another vehicle, either a hybrid or conventional gasoline model, so you need to consider those service opportunities.
There’s also the price point of the electrical vehicle itself and how that factors into operation and of course, servicing and maintenance. We know that purchase price is a huge factor for most consumers, whether the vehicle they buy is new or used.
While it can be argued that some government incentives and rebates (not available in every jurisdiction we might add) can help with the purchase of the EV as well as other aspects such as home charger installation there are additional costs to consider.
If you don’t have solar energy at home, charging that EV is going to add a significant cost to your monthly utility bill, plus one of the reasons why conventional vehicles have become so essential is the convenience they provide. You simply get into them, go where you need to and fill up with fuel in a matter of minutes at a location that is either close to your home or en-route to your destination.
With a battery electric vehicle, careful route planning is needed to ensure charging locations exist on your journey, plus the time it takes to charge the EV must also be considered.
If we think about this from a maintenance standpoint, how many of our customers are likely to purchase an EV and are likely to bring it to us for service work?
And while we might not be dealing with oil changes, tune-ups, transmission flushes or exhaust replacement/repair, we will still need to perform other critical services including alignments, brake inspection and service work as well as wheel balancing and tire replacement. As shop owners and technicians, we also need to make sure we are equipped and trained to handle the high-voltage electrical systems on these vehicles and are able to properly remove and store battery packs if needed.
At this point, it is very difficult to say just how EV sales and demand will evolve in the coming years, but it is worth taking time to understand these vehicles. One way to do that is by leasing one for shop/business use. That way you truly assess its practicality as well as determine what maintenance is required and when, along with the tools and techniques required. This will give your technicians and your shop staff the chance to understand what’s involved and prepare them for a future where EVs are more common in the service bays.
Brad York is a licenced automotive technician and owner of Three Sons Auto in St. Albert, Alta. You can reach him at [email protected]