How workshops could adapt to electric vehicle repairs and services

After-sales services must be prepared for a substantial change in their business model in the coming years, as sales of plug-in vehicles create a complex world with reduced maintenance and new skills and equipment required.

The UK is on a path to electrification as all new car sales switch to zero-emissions technology by 2035. Most franchise dealerships are already in the thick of it. They have invested in specialized tools and training to meet the service, maintenance and repair (SMR) needs of electric vehicles (EVs) already in circulation, as well as to meet the standards expected of them by their manufacturer partners. .

Thomas Chieux, ICDP’s associate director for France, leads research on projections of the impact of electric vehicle sales on aftermarket work in key European markets. Factors include estimated sales rates of electric vehicles as well as the impact of average annual mileage on the aftermarket fleet passing through workshops.

The ICDP is also interested in more mature plug-in vehicle markets, such as in Norway. Norway already has a new battery electric vehicle (BEV) market that accounts for more than 85% of new car sales.

Chieux says: “Our simulation predicts that there will be a 22% mix of BEVs in the UK dealer aftermarket fleet for zero to four year old cars by 2030. We expect a 6% drop in revenue aftermarket due to the penetration of electric vehicles in the UK.

Chieux says this drop may not be as dramatic as you might expect and while it’s possible that revenue will drop further in the future, he says that especially for workshops, “there it’s time to adapt”. One area that Chieux urges dealers to look into is tires.

ICDP data shows a 20% increase in tire consumption for electric vehicles compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles due to the vehicles’ higher torque and overall weight, resulting in a greater wear. ICDP data from Germany shows that revenue generated from tires on EVs has been nearly as high as general maintenance revenue in the zero-to-four EV market.

Chieux says: “Tires are a very competitive area, but it’s a segment that dealers should be thinking about.

Individual garages are looking at tens of thousands of pounds, rather than hundreds of thousands, to be fully set up to service EVs, including the cost of tools and training. Personal protective equipment (PPE), basic additional workshop equipment and insulated tools are necessary to protect technicians from high-voltage systems in electric vehicles.

Franchise dealerships also have the added cost of installing a number of charging stations.

AM’s conversations with various sources show that the basic investment in carrying out routine maintenance work for electric vehicles can be as little as £6,000 for an independent garage. But, again, training costs must also be considered.

Quentin Le Hetet, UK managing director of automotive aftermarket information company GiPA UK, told AM: “Most franchise dealers will look at return on investment (ROI) and have a multi-year plan for the maintenance of electric vehicles, including recruitment and training.

“When we think about equipment and investment, the biggest investment is really taking the time for the vision of electric vehicles.

“That’s what will make the difference. Being able to have that vision and recruit and train accordingly is the most important thing.

According to the latest figures from the Automotive Industry Institute (IMI), only 11% of technicians in the UK are qualified to work safely on electric vehicles. Although this represents a 4.5% increase from 2020, it still highlights the skills shortage in the percentage of the automotive sector qualified to work on electric vehicles.

Figures from IMI data predict a shortage of 25,100 qualified technicians, which could start to impact the ability to meet the demand for servicing electric vehicles by 2027.

IMI has called on the government to invest £15million to help fund the training of 75,000 technicians to be ready for electric vehicles. IMI chief executive Steve Nash said: “It must become increasingly clear, even to the most skeptical, that the electric vehicle movement is now an inexorable trend that they must engage with if they want a sustainable business beyond 2030.

“With one in four new registrations now electrified and electric vehicles expected to overtake ICE registrations by 2026/7, the economics of not engaging with EV SMR is becoming increasingly questionable.”

Nash urges independents to consider a step-by-step approach to investing in electric vehicles. He says: “The investment doesn’t have to be huge if done in small steps and will ensure they stay ‘in the game’, rather than being left behind.

GiPA’s November 2021 consumer survey of 420 UK electric and plug-in hybrid service drivers shows 57% were encouraged to take their vehicle to a workshop they don’t hadn’t used before due to the need for specialized tools and technicians.

Electric vehicles create a natural retention for franchise dealers who are seen as paving the way for specialized expertise. Hetet says, “There is some reluctance to invest in EV tooling from the independent sector at this point because they don’t expect to see EVs coming to them for many years.

“Customers are keeping EVs longer in the franchise dealership system, further reducing exposure to independent garages.”

Le Hetet thinks workshops are unlikely to get rid of specialized ICE equipment in their workshop before 2040. He pointed out that diesel volumes only started to rise from 2009 and have been falling since the Dieselgate in 2015, but the UK aftermarket fleet will continue to have plenty of diesel work to do for years to come.

Global head of technology transmissions and electric vehicle fluids at Castrol Paul Beasley says that while there will be a change in the mix and types of fluids, ICE maintenance and the equipment required by workshops will remain long after 2030. The biggest difference will be the continued reduction in motor oil sales as electric vehicle sales increase.

However, EVs still require transmission and brake fluids, as well as thermal management fluids and battery coolants, as well as EV-specific greases.

Beasley says, “We’re just getting started in terms of fluid lifecycles for electric vehicles. The mix will change and it will depend on the deployment of different OEM technologies. »

Castrol has developed new thermal management fluids which will have a higher degree of recyclability. It is therefore likely that new collection and recycling methods will have to be introduced. Beasley adds, “It will be shades of the same. Transmission fluids on EV are very similar to ICE, but the viscosity is thinner, so it’s quicker to move them in and out of the vehicle and so time on the ramp is reduced.

“Much of the same disposal infrastructure will be the same, however.”

There is a widely accepted view that electric vehicles are mechanically simpler than ICE vehicles, which will most likely reduce overall service and maintenance requirements. However, advances in new autonomous, connected, electric and shared (ACES) technologies are making vehicles more complex in other ways.

Nash said, “Taking a holistic view and ensuring the workforce is properly qualified and equipped to deal with all of these new and emerging technologies should still provide shops with plenty of business opportunities.”

Calibration, electronic work, checking for updates and greater use of diagnostics will require greater technician expertise in the future. Manufacturers have cited savings of 30-40% on maintenance for an electric vehicle compared to an ICE vehicle.

However, this has not been the case in practice so far according to Le Hetet.

Le Hetet said: “We do not see service prices on electric vehicles at a lower rate for the franchise sector at this time.

“Dealers can charge a different labor rate for electric vehicles because it’s a new investment and there’s new training. We are still in the late take-off phase, so it is too early to tell how prices will stabilize.

“There are fewer parts, but more controls, more specialized diagnostic work and how that will be assessed is what will define the market for years to come.”

About Dwight E. McCray

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