As EV gain speed, pool of technicians needs a supercharge

Are you looking at switching to an environmentally friendly car and moving away from the vagaries of constantly changing global fuel prices? Electric Vehicles (EVs) are the obvious solutions and carmakers are constantly launching models to woo customers to make that transition. A surge in lithium-ion mining and reduced prices of precious minerals are just some of the factors providing a thrust to the EV market, besides an obvious case for phasing out fossil-fuel-based vehicles globally.

The Rocky Mountain Institute or RMI in a recent report had stated that the Electric Vehicles (EVs) would surpass two-thirds of the global car sales by 2030. It is estimated that the global EV market valued at USD 388 billion in 2023 would be about a trillion dollars by 2030, witnessing a compounded annual Growth Rate of 13.7 per cent during the next seven years. With technological advancements, growing environmental considerations, and supportive government policies, EVs are gaining ground as sustainable and viable transportation.

Furthermore, deepening air pollution and climate change concerns are pushing industries and consumers to transition to EVs. However, despite all the sanguinity surrounding EVs, there is an elephant in the room – Servicing.

There is now a consensus on the cost benefits of an EV vis-à-vis an internal combustion engine (ICE). With an ICE having over 200 moving parts as compared to just 20 in the case of an EV, repairs, and maintenance are generally fewer than ICE. Yet, a large number of EVs on the roads will entail a greater need for servicing, especially as those vehicles may be involved in accidents too.

EVs function on complex systems entails specialized knowledge for maintenance and repair. From battery management to software updates, the vehicles need a different skill set vis-à-vis conventional cars. Garages looking to accommodate EVs will need to make some investment for catering to the new technology. Since modern EVs are equipped with 400- and 800 volt-systems, it can be dangerous if mishandled by untrained technicians.

Additionally, there are risks posed by electric vehicle fires. There is already a concern about insurers writing off cars in case of minor physical damage to battery casings. In the case of an EV, battery itself accounts for 60 percent of the vehicle cost, which means a battery replacement may burn a hole in the pocket.

In Britain for instance, the Association for British Insurers had said that there are concerns around the availability of repairers in the country. Last year, major British retailer John Lewis stopped insuring EVs altogether after underwriter, Covéa, withdrew cover for these vehicles. Last year, global leader in vehicle lifecycle management, Solera Holdings, stated that EV repairs are almost 29 per cent more than ICE repair costs on average. It further said that the parts are almost 50 per cent more expensive, including battery-control unit, battery box, high-voltage, cabling, and system battery charger. Solera Holdings also disclosed that driver airbag ‘systems’ were replaced 8 per cent more frequently as compared to conventional engines. 

Shortage of Professionals, Globally

As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, US will need 80,000 electricians through 2031, a number that includes EV technicians. Australia’s Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce envisions a need for 9,000 EV technicians by 2030.

Warrantywise, a firm providing repairs in the UK said that there is a need for augmenting garages and mechanics for fixing the EVs. Further, the country’s Institute of the Motor Industry has said that the country is behind on the need for qualified mechanics to work on EVs, with just one in twenty technicians being up to the mark for working on electrified cars. The potential shortage of 20,000 qualified ‘TechSafe’ technicians by 2030, would rise to a shortage of 36,000 by 2032. The UK has witnessed doubling of electric cars to about 850,000 in the last three years while the US sold over a million EVs last year.

In Italy, a country where EV adoption is low and currently poor charging infrastructure. A small garage owner will need to invest about USD 32,600 for the necessary equipment needed to service and repair EVs, which is almost impossible.

Technician training organizations, warranty providers as well as repairers across the globe opine that independent repair shops will be imperative for making EVs affordable.

Solutions Round the Corner

Major companies globally are already looking at potential solutions to the teething problem. Tesla is running courses across the United States, especially community colleges for training attendees in EV repair. This becomes even more important as Tesla owners and insurers are being impacted by larger repair bills, which have witnessed a spike of 8 per cent for the first half of this year.

The firm is also giving training to independent shops. German major is investing USD 30 million for training US technicians in the maintenance and installation of EV chargers. The UK’s IMI is looking at government to allocate USD 18.8 million towards helping independent workshops get up to speed with their EV training.

In September 2023, BYD Motors and Cox Automotive had entered into a service agreement covering BYD customers and their growing fleets within United States with 24/7 roadside support and a nationwide network of EV-trained service technicians. Such collaborations can result in a mutually beneficial relation for the service provider and the carmakers, easing any potential anxiety of customers.

Indian Market

According to a report by the Bain & Company and Blume Ventures, the Indian EV market has the potential to reach USD 100 billion in revenue by 2030, with feasibility of achieving 40 percent penetration by 2030. The growth will be driven by significant adoption across two and three wheelers at over 45 percent, while the four-wheelers are projected to grow by more than 20 percent.

As per the Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a third of all vehicles sold in India by 2030 will be electric. Though legacy OEMs have invested in training technicians, pure EV players are still working on the network of workshops. Kinetic Green, a major player in electric vehicles in three wheeler EVs had said that it is challenging to access electric engines. This is why replacing unit is simpler instead of repairing it.

The issue can exacerbate with the nonprofit member organization Consumer Reports indicating that EVs suffer from 79 percent maintenance issues vis-à-vis gas-powered cars. At a time when the global market is exploding and will only grow significantly in the coming years, large number of EV users will look forward to a reliance mechanism of servicing and support.

CEO of Terra Motors India, Akhiro Ueda had said that EV revolution is about equipping people with the tools and knowledge to maintain this new fleet. The CEO further said that the surge in EVs needs responsibility of bridging the emerging skills gap. Ueda further added the new age needs mechanics to work in tandem with sophisticated software.

Ola Electric, an electric scooter major, which currently has over 400 service centres, plans to offer home service options and deployed mobile vans for assistance to customers in small cities. The company confirmed that most EV complaints are related to charging, battery management system and software. Service centres are also becoming education hubs for customers, such as Tata Motors manpower going through training programmes.

Currently, the pressure on EV servicing is lower, with four-wheelers and two-wheelers accounting for 1.7 per cent and 5 per cent share respectively. Hence, car companies are also planning to have students trained in EV programmes. For instance, Mercedes-Benz has collaborated with eight engineering colleges in Kerala, Maharashtra and Delhi-NCR to introduce an EV module in their course on Advanced Diploma in Automotive Mechatronics.

Mahindra has established Mahindra Technical Corners in ITIs to augment the talent pool in EVs. On the other hand, MG Motor India has collaborated with more than 20 technical institutes and vocational schools for recruiting skilled students.

The Automotive Skills Development Council has done collaborations with private sector companies to develop a standardized EV curriculum under the National Skills Development Corporation. EV service technician is already a popular course amongst the various courses offered by ASDC.

ASDC also tied up with Livguard Batteries Private Limited for upgrading the workforce to the EV industry. Under the collaboration, some programs and trainings have already been conducted in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra and Firozabad.

Demand for Jobs

As per a talent management firm, transition of manufacturers from the traditional ICE to EVs will lead to about 20 million jobs by 2030, especially for pre-delivery inspection technicians, EV software engineers, EV hardware engineers, vendor managers, service technicians, EV technology consultants as well as AI and data engineers. The sector is witnessing a boost in demand for contractual staff especially for Research, EV system consultants, battery technology advisors, software developers focusing on EV applications and sustainable transportation advisors.

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