The electric car revolution

The beginning of the end of the pulley gasket

No change of oil or problems with the filter or the mythical pulley gasket. An electric engine has less components than a combustion engine; exhaust pipes, clutches, gearboxes also disappear. For many the electric car is a computer on wheels, a new species that will mean a revolution on the roads and also in mechanical workshops. Electric cars break down less frequently and require different maintenance, which will make a radical transformation mandatory in post-sale, maintenance and repair services.

Workshops adapted to electric cars are still in the immense minority, a result of the combination of two factors: an electric vehicle park which is still highly reduced and virtually "brand new".

A study of the Asitur Focus Observatory of Accidents suggests that "not finding a suitable workshop" is one of the fears that stop Spaniards when buying an electric car, together with the trio comprised of price, autonomy and the incipient development of recharging infrastructures. But things are also changing in workshops.

“The forecast for the next few years is growth parallel to implantation of this kind of vehicle, which registers double digit growth each year”

– Lorenzo Vidal de la Peña, CEO of Ganvam

From the automobile sector they highlight that workshops are gradually being adapted, together with the implantation of electric cars. "The forecast for the next few years is growth parallel to implantation of this kind of vehicle, which registers double digit growth each year" – Lorenzo Vidal de la Peña, CEO of Ganvam, the Spanish Association of Motor Vehicle Sellers.

At the moment, repairs of electric vehicles are focused on workshops of the brands themselves and the major chains. The small ones have not yet adapted because "demand is still low and because most electric cars belong to corporate fleets which already have agreements to perform maintenance", opines José Manuel López Montoya, commercial director of MSI Market Intelligence Systems.

70% less breakdowns

The White Paper on Post-sale of Automobiles in Spain 2017 by AfterMarket Club points out one of the major advantages of electric cars to the user, which in turn entails a challenge for workshops: less breakdowns. "Repairs of electromechanics, mechanics and maintenance will come down by 70%", highlights the report.

Nonetheless, in the opinion of López-Montoya, the bursting on the scene of electric cars does not have to mean a downfall for the post-sale sector. "Quite simply, we will have to know how to position ourselves", he highlights after recalling that, for example, there will be no substantial changes in invoicing for paintwork.

Advantages of the electric car

For his part, de la Peña recalls that for quite a long time electric vehicles will coexist in workshops with traditional fuel vehicles and adds that it is still early to know the actual cost of maintenance of electric vehicles because sales are not comparable to the remaining technologies and vehicles are relatively young.

"In the case of internal combustion vehicles, maintenance is also much lower if we are talking of vehicles up to 5 years old; more exhaustive maintenance begins as of then. Therefore, we will have to wait for electric cars that started to be sold a few years ago to reach this level of maturity", he assures. De la Peña also points out that maintenance needs of new electronic systems that equip vehicles, connectivity, etc. will be increasingly more important.

What is certain is that a good portion of the causes that have traditionally led to car visits to the workshop will disappear directly with the electric vehicle.

"We will forget about changing motor oil, oil filters, timing belts, but we will continue to maintain shock absorbers, axle shafts, steering… and other mechanical aspects shared with combustion vehicles", highlights Oscar Fernández, manager of Movelco Electrical Mobility. At Movelco they have adapted all workshops in the official network and various independent workshops to the electric vehicle and they highlight that consultations to install electrical boxes are on the rise.

“In the case of internal combustion vehicles, maintenance is also lower if we are talking of vehicles up to 5 years; much more exhaustive maintenance begins as of then”

– Lorenzo Vidal de la Peña, CEO of Ganvam

What adapted workshops should have

There are a series of essential points so that workshops can tackle the maintenance and repair of electric vehicles. The main thing is specific training by the workers to handle cars with high voltages, specific tools for assembly and dismantling both the components of the vehicle and batteries and a recharging point to ensure correct operation of the vehicle after each intervention. To sum up: training, electric box and recharging point.

Although in Spain there are currently approximately 46,500 electric cars, according to data from the Spanish Corporate Association for Developing and Boosting the Electric Vehicle, (AEDIVE), forecasts suggest exponential growth. The Spanish Government calculates that by 2030 between four and five million electric vehicles will circulate on Spanish roads and by then workshops should be prepared to deal with their maintenance. From Movelco they point out the advantages of being state-of-the-art and notching up experience for the time when the alternative becomes the norm.

"An example: How many workshops started to repair Airbag? At the start very few, today it’s a common component in vehicles and any workshop should know how to operate in it. The initial ones that adapted to maintaining Airbag equipment are today the best specialists in the subject", he ruled.

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