Insulate to accumulate

EVs and hybrids are a growing segment, and garages that get in now will see the investment pay off. You’re in for a shock if you’re not prepared...

Published:  09 October, 2019

There are already over 620,000 battery electric, plug-in hybrid or conventional hybrid vehicles on UK roads. This will only rise, with manufacturers set to dramatically increase production of these vehicles over the coming decade.
    
Therefore, it’s surprising many garages still don’t have the skills or tools to safely service them. However, Adam White, Director of Workshop Solutions at Euro Car Parts, says there is plenty of help available that can enable technicians and workshop managers can catch up: “Volvo Cars has just signed a multi-billion-dollar battery deal through to 2025, signalling a strong commitment to electric and hybrid vehicle production. In fact, its battery order is so large, it’s more or less equivalent to the entire global production in 2018. This means by 2025 half of Volvo’s global sales, some 500,000 vehicles, will be fully electric. At the start of this year, Ford announced a $15 billion investment and 40 electrified vehicle models by 2022. BMW Group plans to offer 12 full-electric models by 2025. The list goes on and the point is clear, vehicle manufacturers are investing heavily in hybrid and battery electric vehicle technology and it is time to follow suit.”
    
Adam continues: “The biggest threat to the independent aftermarket is also its greatest opportunity. The greatest risk during this period of transition is that independent workshops slip behind, and customers have no option but to service their vehicles at main dealers. While we see some switched-on garages and younger technicians getting involved with hybrid and EV training, we have a significant amount of data showing a serious industry-wide deficiency in hybrid and EV knowledge and skills.
    
“Many garages do not see the required investment in training or equipment as worthwhile, believing there to be very few of these vehicles on the road. White suggests the numbers tell a different story. Industry predictions suggest a short-sighted approach to the hybrid and EV market may be damaging to workshops in the long term.”
    
While optimistic about the aftermarket’s ability to adapt, Adam cautions workshops to approach the opportunity with the right frame of mind and an awareness of the dangers involved with high-voltage systems: “While the risks of working with hybrid and EV vehicles can be safely mitigated, much like conventional vehicles, safety training is critical. For those wishing to test the waters, technicians can be taught how to make the vehicle safe, without the more intensive training on servicing the actual high voltage system. This means if a workshop has one or two technicians who can isolate the vehicle, the rest of the team can safely work on other systems like steering and suspension or air conditioning.
    
“Many workshops are turning away hybrid vehicles, even when the problem is unrelated to the high-voltage system. While this approach may be sustainable now, we’re at the turning point. Even if workshops aren’t willing to completely commit, having a few staff qualified to make the vehicle safe opens other servicing opportunities. Those who start working on hybrid and electric vehicles now will be ahead of the curve, gaining customers, experience and a reputation for the work. It could be a make or break difference in the coming decade.”


Training
Commenting on training available, Adam says: “Auto Education Academy, Euro Car Parts’ dedicated training platform, offers several appropriate courses, including GED 13 – an IMI Level 2 Award in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Operation and Maintenance. The course teaches technicians how to maintain and repair hybrid vehicles but not the hybrid or electric powertrain itself. Technicians learn about the dangers of high-voltage systems and the differences between HEV, PHEV, EREV and EV. It also covers the various approaches used by manufactures to power down the high-voltage system and the safety equipment required.
    
“For those looking to repair and replace hybrid vehicle parts, a more detailed and comprehensive course is required. GED 14 is an IMI Level 3 Award in Hybrid Vehicle System Repair and Replacement, giving technicians the skills and knowledge to effectively service and repair EV and hybrid systems. This course lays the foundation for further advanced training. Both courses can be booked through Auto Education Academy.
    
“It’s free to join, and repairers can login to their own skills portal to view the content of more than 75 different courses. Users can also assess their strengths and identify weaknesses in nine key areas; petrol engines, diesel engines, engine management and emissions, vehicle electronics, air-conditioning, brakes, powertrain, tyres, steering and suspension, as well as hybrid and electrical cars. Results are automatically added to an interactive skills diagram; which technicians can compare with the national average to gauge where they stand.
    
“Users can see for themselves the serious hybrid and EV knowledge deficiency that exists within the UK. Anyone can go online and complete the skills overview; it’s a great way to understand your personal strengths and weaknesses. It can be a useful tool for managers looking to assess the core competencies of their staff or potential new hires. The data we have suggests knowledge about hybrid and electric vehicles lags far behind other core areas, a growing concern we hope to change.”
    
Accessible online or over the phone, it provides fast responses to troubleshooting, repair, diagnostics and technical information queries on any vehicle, from any manufacturer.
    
Workshop Solutions offers four safety equipment packages for workshops working with electrified vehicles. Workshop Pack, Vehicle Safety Pack, Personnel Safety Pack, Safety Tools Pack. There is also a Hybrid Master Safety Pack (£1,099), which includes all four of the above.
    
“I can understand the trepidation and hesitation we are seeing across the aftermarket,” concludes Adam. “Repairers are focused on looking after their current clients and building a business around what they know. However, things are changing, and we have a widening gap between vehicle technology and skills within the aftermarket. We need to address this shortfall and capitalise on the opportunity hybrid and electric vehicles present to the independent aftermarket.”
    
The growth in electric and hybrid vehicles is having an impact on many systems that mechanics are, or at least think they are, familiar with. As the segment grows, techs may find they need to re-learn even more than ever before.
    
Dr Liz Dixon, Global Technology Director of the Shrieve Group, a supplier of synthetic speciality refrigeration lubricants, comments: “Polyalkylene glycols (PAGs) are the lubricant of choice for hybrid and electric vehicle air con. The hybrid/electric vehicle market is growing rapidly and driving up use of electric air-conditioning compressors, and environmental legislation is leading equipment manufacturers to use more environmentally friendly refrigerants.”
    
European directive 2006/40/EC fully came into effect in 2017. It stipulates that air conditioning systems in motor vehicles type-approved after 1 January 2011 may not be filled with fluorinated greenhouse gases with a global warming potential (GWP) higher than 150. Compliance with this directive led to the development and adoption of R1234yf, which has a GWP of 1.0. In addition to this, R1234yf has a low ozone depletion potential (ODP). Developed to be a drop-in replacement for R134a refrigerants, R1234yf is now the industry standard for new vehicles and r134a is being phased out.”
    
It’s not all good news though. “Unfortunately,” says Dr Dixon, “the R1234yf chemical structure that ensures a low GWP can also cause issues with refrigerant stability. To counter this, the right lubricant is vital for long-term operation. So, how do you select this lubricant? Fundamentally it boils down to chemistry.
  
“R1234yf’s molecular structure causes a high level of chemical reactivity. The lubricant must have the correct stability properties to counteract the refrigerant’s inherent reactivity, in addition to appropriate miscibility properties with this new refrigerant type. In this regard, PAG lubricants have the most preferential properties. Electrical systems require further considerations of the lubricant’s conductive tendencies:

“The reason many PAG-based solutions have exhibited such electrical properties is because of how they are formulated and processed. If these PAGs are processed under more stringent conditions to achieve higher levels of purity, you get less contaminants, and a resultant lubricant that is perfectly safe for use in hybrid and electric compressor systems.”


Two in one
On the engine side, for the increasing number of hybrid vehicles, LIQUI MOLY has produced a new additive. David Kaiser, who heads the R&D department at LIQUI MOLY comments: “Strictly speaking, the Hybrid Additive is itself a hybrid, because it combines two properties. It stabilizes the fuel quality and it cleans the injection system. In hybrid vehicles, the electric motor is the main drive. Meanwhile, the combustion motor works only as an assistant. This engine is mostly only used for short periods. This results in two problems.
    
"First, the fuel remains in the tank for longer and ages more, compared to vehicles powered exclusively by a diesel or petrol engine. The second problem is deposits in the injection tract because of the irregular short-term use. The Hybrid Additive keeps the petrol quality stable, protects against deposits in the injection system and removes existing deposits. It therefore solves both problems. The LIQUI MOLY Hybrid Additive is only for hybrid vehicles with a petrol engine.”

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