In September, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed that battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid uptake grew substantially, accounting for more than one in ten registrations.
Another way of looking at the figures is that battery electric sales are up a huge 184.3 per cent on September last year.
Couple this with recent talk that the government is set to bring forward its ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles to as soon as 2030, and it’s clear that the UK is rapidly approaching a tipping point.
As EVs become more commonplace on our roads, it won’t be long before they’re out of warranty and ready to enter the independent aftermarket.
But hybrids have already been around for more than 25 years, and according to the IMI, less than five per cent of technicians in the UK are currently qualified to service them.
With the aftermarket largely set up to service vehicles with internal combustion engines as a result, hybrids are often returned to the dealer, long after their warranties expire – and the same will be true for EVs unless garages start preparing now.
Offering these services is a key point of difference for garages, allowing them to not only win new customers, but retain existing customers in the long-term as they upgrade to vehicles with the latest technology.
The good news is that the courses we offer through our AutoEducation Academy cover both hybrids and EVs, meaning technicians can develop their skills to deal with both fuel types.
All of our courses cover safety management essentials, before going into various levels of technical detail.
Our 2021 schedule includes more hybrid and EV course dates than ever before, and will help to bring more than 550 new hybrid-trained technicians up to level three standard, while upskilling another 670 to level four.
In terms of the programmes we have on offer, Level 2 is our most popular course and covers routine maintenance activities and terminology, as well as providing technicians with a thorough understanding of the construction and function of hybrid-electric systems, and safety considerations for working with high-voltage operations and components.
Level 3 builds on this to cover system repair and replacement, as well as more advanced electrical regeneration, rectification and regulation skills – and Level 4 extends further into diagnostics, testing and advanced repairs.
Signing up for AutoEducation is free, with an extensive range of courses on various subjects available, and technicians can complete nine free skills assessments to help them identify which courses to take.
When it comes to working with battery-powered vehicles, health and safety is as important to consider as technical expertise.
That’s why it forms a core component of our AutoEducation training programmes.
There are many risks associated with electrical vehicle systems.
Cars like the Tesla Model S are crammed with high-voltage components, including a 400-volt battery, as well as drive units, cabling, charging points and converter units.
To tackle this, the IMI has developed a professional standard for EVs, which helps technicians understand the minimum requirements for keeping safe when servicing them.
Garage owners have a legal obligation to ensure that their employees are properly-trained and protected when working on or around high-voltage systems, and they can certify their competence with the IMI TechSafe banner – something we actively promote to our customers.
Available through our AutoEducation platform, the IMI’s technical helpline and online vehicle troubleshooting portal provides repair and diagnostic assistance alongside technical information on any vehicle, from any manufacturer.
There is a perception that becoming EV and hybrid-ready is a big financial commitment.
But actually, a £2,000 one-off cost can equip one technician with all necessary training, tools and equipment.
And with an average EV or hybrid service typically costing £300, garages can quickly generate a significant return on investment.
Before they can start to sell specialist services for EVs and hybrids, garages will need to invest in technical and safety equipment.
Our specialist safety pack includes essentials like high voltage floor matting, an insulated rescue pole and safety clamp, safety signage, an insulated face shield and gloves, extra-long hex keys and a 22-piece insulated toolkit.
And beyond physical pieces of kit, technicians should leverage free-to-access marketing tools, such as social media, to help build their reputation as a professional hybrid- and EV-certified garage.
Making sure that drivers can easily find garages that can fulfil their specific needs is key to driving revenue.
As well as creating an opportunity to share regular updates on opening times, available services, and even tips and advice on common queries, effective online marketing can encourage conversations and recommendations, helping to build trust and reputation.