Working in the automotive sector can often feel like battling with a many tentacled sea monster, the moment you defeat one tentacle suddenly another sprouts up- another new technology that we all must master.
One such technology is the electric vehicle.
It seems that you cannot open a magazine or read a publication without hearing that the electric vehicle market is the way to go.
However, what is involved? How difficult is it to set up your garage for the future of the electric vehicle? Is it worth investing in and if so, what is the investment?
Well, having done it recently I thought I would take the time to share our journey with you to try and debunk some of the myths, smooth over any concerns and explain that gearing up for EV really is not as hard as it sounds.
I confess that electric vehicles are not really my cup of tea personally.
I prefer larger petrol engine vehicles and find it hard to get excited about an electric motor.
So, I was perhaps a little bit behind in coming to terms with electric vehicles being the future of the automotive industry.
I first thought about gearing ourselves up for the electric vehicle market when I spotted a local taxi firm had moved all their vehicles over to fully electric.
Now being in a rural area that was quite a brave move and it got me thinking that if one company had taken the plunge, how long would it be before others joined suit?
And if they did follow suit, what repair options would be available to them?
Were there many other EV garages in our area or was it purely a main dealership scenario?
After doing some research I discovered that in my local area there were no independent garages within a 25-mile radius who can offer EV repair and servicing.
This highlighted a gap in the market that I had was not aware of until now – this was the moment that our EV journey began.
After doing some research I discovered HEVRA– The hybrid and electric vehicle repair alliance.
They were exceptionally helpful in pointing me in the right direction and giving me hints and tips on what to do.
Training was the most pressing issue, so I contacted my primary training provider who was able to put one of my technicians on the level three course.
Cost for this was sub £1000 including VAT, so not scary by any means.
This is the entry level course which really focuses on the basics of keeping yourself safe when decommissioning and re-commissioning the high-voltage batteries.
This allows you to work on pretty much all areas of the vehicle that we are all familiar with for example braking system and suspension – although the heart has changed, many other components remain the same.
Suspension will always wear out as will brakes, for example.
I was happy with this introductory level of working on electric vehicles.
I felt that more complex systems where I am likely to be requiring investigation and repair due to the ages of vehicles that I would be looking to work on.
My thoughts were to perhaps upgrade this as and when required.
With training in hand, I once again approached HEVRA for their advice as to how to kit out my workshop to ensure compliance.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that very minimal investment was required.
I already had diagnostic equipment and a non-magnetic workbench as well as things like a brake fluid tester and a cat three multimeter with leads.
I did not need a specific charging socket just a standard 13-amp wall socket with the necessary adapters which are easily obtained.
Other tooling is relatively inexpensive, although like all things that are new, they do carry a larger price tag then their standard equivalents.
However, they can be obtained relatively easily through all the usual motor factors and are often in promotions where you can save a considerable sum.
Things like barriers do not have to be anything special they just need to be clear non-conductive and have the correct signage – all of which HEVRA were kind enough to advise me on.
With regards to working area yes of course you can put in your own dedicated bay for EV.
However, I opted to go down the multi-use bay route, whilst populating electric and hybrid vehicle work so as not to incur a costly investment with little to gain from it.
All we do is put up the necessary barriers and signage when working on an electrical hybrid vehicle and then when the works are completed remove them once again.
We are at the point now where we feel that a dedicated bay is a worthwhile investment and therefore will be installing one shortly.
One of the major concerns when I speak to other garage owners is the question of investment versus return.
Like everything in life, you get what do you put into it. We were proactive in reaching our target audience and highlighting our services and as a result were successful in securing fleet maintenance contracts.
However, there are other avenues that can be explored to source hybrid and EV work that require minimal input four example the one link and fleet assist platforms, both of which unite fleet management companies with repairers and have their own listing category for EV equipped garages.
HEVRA also have their own membership which includes the registered repairer or garage on the database which is available to the public.
Since becoming EV equipped we have noticed a sharp increase in requests for electric vehicle service and repair.
As the shift from the conventional combustion engine to hybrid and EV builds more momentum, I am now confident that I have safeguarded the future of my business by keeping up to date with this inevitable change.
So, for now I feel I have tackled this latest tentacle on the automotive sea monster and can now focus on whatever surprises are on the horizon for the future.
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