Electric car servicing
How workshops need to adapt
As EVS become ever more common on our roads and we move towards the 2030 ban on pure combustion engines, it’s not just car owners who need to be aware of the shift in the automotive landscape.
Garages and workshops are also looking into being able to repair and service EVS. If there’s to be a huge shift to electric cars, dealers – be they large retail groups or smaller independent traders – will need to be up to speed on how to service them.
One thing is for sure: the businesses that service our cars will need to start preparing now for the electric revolution. Here’s how they can begin to upgrade their workplaces.
A capacity check is step one. If a business is looking to accommodate greater numbers of EVS, it is important to ensure there is the cabling and infrastructure in place.
Businesses can ask a local electrician to ensure that there is sufficient capacity on site above maximum demand. This is usually either very cheap or even free to undertake. Alternatively, there are companies that can carry out a site survey to produce a turnkey solution. The supply must not have any diversity (a supply calculation) in order to have sufficient power to charge the cars.
If a site is found to have an insufficient supply, there are a few options to consider. It may be necessary to ring-fence power for the EV charging points, in which case a charging point supplier can install a charging point where the power is ring-fenced before it goes to the existing distribution board. Alternatively, a lower-powered charging point that requires less power can be installed.
Where a business has low power supply capacity, it may need to look at investing in an upgrade to its incoming power supply to have the best charging result. One option is to take advice about a supply upgrade from the distribution network operator (DNO). The price for this type of upgrade varies from minimal to quite expensive, depending on how
If a site has insufficient power, it may be necessary to ‘ring-fence’ a supply
much work the DNO needs to do to get the additional supply into the property. With some luck, the mains cable in the street will pass by the building, meaning minimal infrastructure work.
Garages worrying about major upgrades to substations needn’t be concerned, as these would not typically be required for a standard commercial installation. Not only are they an expensive undertaking, requiring major network upgrades, but they’re also not normally the responsibility of the business owner.
Load management is another potential solution to ensure businesses are ready for the move to EVS, allowing chargers to use only up to a maximum level of energy to help avoid power failures.
Installing charging points is the next step, for use by the business itself and possibly the wider public, too. There is a potential extra revenue stream because car owners are likely to seek out businesses that provide EV charging points.
Workshop owners should look to install basic charging points in each bay so EVS can charge while being repaired. They should also consider a handover bay, but here it’s better to have a faster charging point, up to the maximum the building allows, to return the vehicle to the customer with enough power to at least get them home.
With 50kw charging points (rapid chargers), typically 100Aph per unit would be needed. Upgrading the existing supply to support one needs to be considered unless there’s already sufficient juice on site.
For the external points – for customer car parks, for instance – some types of charging areas can provide a number of incidental benefits. Some businesses make the most of the outdoor space by using a charging point as a parking meter, generating additional revenue, or have the ability to customise the screens of these charging points to display promotional material.
INVEST IN TRAINING
We are likely to find that although EVS present initial infrastructure challenges, in general they have fewer maintenance needs than the majority of fossil-fuel vehicles. But that doesn’t mean the end of servicing, because it is more likely that the value for EV owners will be in workshops that are better able to run diagnostics on EVS, in order to ensure that the vehicle is running smoothly. As a result, training will be key – something the Institute of the Motor Industry has repeatedly called for the government to focus on as we advance towards a zero-emission future.
SAFETY AND EQUIPMENT Beyond charging, workshops may have to make other changes to work on EVS. Insulated tools are a must, of course, as well as rubber boots, a non-conductive ‘barge pole’ and other equipment relating to isolating the vehicle and making sure that unauthorised people don’t wander into the area.
While business owners are assessing risks, it’s worth considering if the lifting gear is suitable. EVS are much heavier than other types of cars, because of their heavy batteries, and the centre of gravity will shift dramatically when the battery is removed on some hybrids. Garages will need to revisit manufacturers’ procedures for lifting equipment to ensure they are aware of any changes required when handling EVS.
A whole range of new safety challenges arises with EVS as well. For instance, stored electric energy, or multiple vehicles plugged into charging points at any one time, raises the risk of an explosion or an accident, so as with any battery being charged, making sure the ventilation is adequate is vital.
The key message is not to panic about the electric future. The outlay to cater for EVS may not be as great as some might think, particularly as the main pieces of infrastructure are probably in place already. If a business becomes an early adopter, the rewards could well be worth the cost of upgrading.