EVs and hybrids may not be common in your bays yet, but the time is coming when they will be. Should you invest in the training now, or wait till the demand is greater?
By Martha Uniacke Breen
While in most areas of the country, the EV/hybrid revolution hasn’t exactly taken the driving world by storm just yet – at least from the point of view of the aftermarket – none but the most shortsighted would argue that it’s coming, and probably sooner rather than later.
EVs and hybrids present both an opportunity and a challenge for automotive service providers, and there are certainly ample opportunities to train up for this. It’s important for shops to create a plan, so they can manage their training and shop approach appropriately in this market space. Where should shops focus their training and preparation efforts for EVs/Hybrids today, and how should this plan evolve?
“Grab every opportunity to undergo EV training, whether it be in-person or virtual,” a spokesperson with the ACDelco training team advises. “Get no one left behind; get all technicians/apprentices engaged in the training program. Be prepared to operate with a lean team while technicians are attending training. To encourage the technicians, consider training activities as hours worked and compensate them as usual.
“As a start, it is recommended to take an introductory course on how to service EVs while maximizing profits,” the ACDelco trainer continues. “Main areas of concentration would be motors, controls and safety systems. Remember, like a conventional car, electronic vehicles have brake systems and cabin air filters that need replacement/maintenance service.”
Craig Van Batenburg is the CEO of ACDC Hybrid and EV Training Resources, an EV training specialist in Massachusetts. “Talk to your staff about what they see as needed,” he says. “Do they want to work on these vehicles? Then make a plan with those techs that want to learn. Start with the basics, and move upwards towards full service as soon as you can. Buy a HEV or EV as a shop car – maybe an old one that needs work.”
Some shops may be debating how much longer they can wait to increase their focus on training and service delivery for this segment, and how to tailor the training to their technicians’ individual requirements. According to Van Batenburg, “It is never too early to start, as long as you can provide EMVs (my word for all HV systems) daily, so the tech(s) can practice what they learn. That requires a good marketing plan.”
According to Wilson Almeida, technical training manager, Vast Auto Network, “Our recommendation is to ensure that technicians have a good in-depth understanding of basic electricity, electronics, programming and a good level of experience in automotive diagnostics. It’s imperative to take this training, not only for technicians, but also the staff at the service counter, managers and shop forepersons will benefit from this knowledge. It’s a synergy that must be put in place, so that the automotive aftermarket industry benefit from these business opportunities.”
“The best way is to know the level of the person and address that level,” states Yves Racette, director of NexDrive Program Development. “If we talk about technicians, we should verify their basic knowledge before anything else; once this is addressed, we can build on their competencies.”
“Every car manufacturer is going, or has gone electric, and given the current market EV adoption rate, you have to get your shop EV ready NOW,” the ACDelco Training Team states unequivocally. “Some vehicles have been in the market for years and may be in the ‘sweet spot for aftermarket maintenance. Is your shop poised to pivot and serve that solid demand?”
More than a few shops have stated that they’re well aware of the coming EV “revolution,” and that in principle, EV training is a desirable goal for their technicians. But there have been barriers: one of them of course, is the ROI on a technology that may not be in common use in their bays for some years to come; the other is finding competent and available training that isa not prohibitively expensive. One solution is government assistance (in Ontario, AARO has received funds from the Ontario Ministry of Labour for this purpose; check with your provincial association to find out what is available in your province).
As Craig Van Batenburg observes, however, “It is not as expensive as you may think for HEV service on the popular makes. HEVs have been in North America for over 20 years. Many Teslas are out of warranty; be the first shop in your area to dive in deep and the customers will come from far and wide.”
Some networks are working to make this training available to their members. “In Quebec, the Auto Value network (Vast-Auto Distribution, division of Groupe Del Vasto) is partner with the Programme Competence VE, a provincial accreditation which consists of five levels of training and they have their own master trainer, who is qualified [through] this program,” says Wilson Almeida. “Training can be provided via either virtual or hands-on classes. The Auto Value network is presently working on introducing this program in other Canadian provinces.”
The ACDelco training team is committed to help ACDelco customers prepare for the rapidly changing future. “Part of this is by adding EV training courses to its training curriculum. Unlimited online courses are offered to AC Delco Program members for free, while in-person training is at a discounted rate,” says the ACDelco Training Team member.
What other factors should shops with the desire to increase their knowledge and competency in EV/hybrid service consider?
Says Racette, “[Shops] should be looking for more space if they are planning on taking down high voltage batteries: you cannot work on the battery under the car, and some shops don’t have the space to do so. And as well, train all the staff in basic knowledge so the customer does not feel like he is addressing his concern to someone who does not understand these cars.”
Wilson Almeida points out an issue that sadly, is not unfamiliar to the independent aftermarket. “We must mention that there are a few manufacturers that will provide access to the technical information; unfortunately, many will also prevent access to this kind of information. Regardless, the information that is provided is not sufficient to fix these types of vehicles; the theory and operation of these systems are not available, [but] highly required to understand these technologies.”
The ACDelco training team encourages the industry to not just prepare, but celebrate the changes that EV and hybrid technology portend for the future of the industry. “Embrace this new technology as early as you can, to keep your competitive edge. It is always best to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to training; it’s a rapidly changing industry, where breakthroughs can happen every day. One could say that this transition could be of the same scope as the changeover from carburetors to electronic fuel injection. It was not an easy adjustment then – but today, it is a basic service from every technician.”
This article originally appeared in the July/August Indie Garage 2022 print edition.