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EVs pose danger to mechanics: FCAI

Up to speed: Technicians working in a car company’s dealer network receive specialist training to safely handle the high voltages associated with electrified vehicles.

FCAI warns against independent servicing, repair of EVs without specialist training

9 Sep 2019

THE peak body representing car companies in Australia has warned that independent mechanics could be putting themselves in danger by working on electric vehicles unless they have specialist training specific to each particular model.


Speaking to GoAuto about the right of independent operators to gain access to servicing and repair data from the car manufacturers, which are sometimes tightly held for their own dealer networks, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) chief executive Tony Weber expressed concern about the risks involved in working on EVs without sufficient training.


He said the FCAI supported service and repair information being placed in the public domain – as long as the costs involved to the car companies was realistic – but questioned the independent aftermarket sector’s ability to handle the job.


“(An) issue that I think is of enormous concern is the welfare of mechanics,” Mr Weber said.


“Cars, especially as we move down the pathway of electrification, there are a lot of elements to those cars you have to have specific training for, otherwise you should not touch that vehicle.


“Without that skill, I am worried about it at an occupational health and safety level, I’m worried about the health of mechanics, and also there was a question mark about the capability to actually fix these cars.


“So, once again, what on the surface sounds like a simple issue, has many, many dimensions to it.”


The rapid rise of EVs in other markets such as the UK has seen motor industry bodies push for regulatory change to ensure independent technicians have the required skills, training and certification to work on all types of electrified vehicles, including plug-in hybrids.


These vehicles typically have electrical systems that can operate at voltages that are high enough to endanger life.


The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association’s partner ACA Research recently published a report on the local EV sector that found that “Australia’s growing EV market will require an extensive recharging and aftermarket servicing network”.


It also stressed that developing a competitive aftermarket to meet the servicing requirements of a growing EV carparc was critical.


“While service intervals for EVs are less frequent than their ICE (internal combustion engine) counterparts, their servicing requirements are more complex,” the report said.


“For example, an independent repairer will need technicians who have the skills and expertise to service different battery packs, typically requiring a higher level of training in electrical engineering than is currently the case.”


The aftermarket association and a range of other industry bodies have been lobbying the federal government for several years to introduce regulations that require all car manufacturers to share technical information with independent repairers.


Mr Weber said he expected there will be reform but questioned the actual level of demand out in the marketplace.


“Our position has been for some time now that we support the provision of access to service and repair information into the public domain,” he said.


“My only concern with this is that we get the balance right here – the cost-benefit analysis.


“What is the international experience? The European Union has had a scheme in place for the best part of two decades, and the US have had it in place for a decade. And the independent repair sector in the US and the EU have one thing in common: they don’t buy the data.


“Let’s have a look at Australia. Apparently, General Motors Holden is the posterchild, according to the aftermarket association, about putting the information in the public domain.


“So, I’m fascinated when Holden tells me that very few businesses buy their data. There’s a lot of Holdens on the road in Australia, but the independent repair sector don’t buy their data. In fact, more backyard mechanics buy it than the independent repair sector.


“Toyota is exactly the same story. So what we have here is the experience out of the US, we have the experience out of the European Union – extensive experience – we have Toyota’s experience, which I think in the latest census there were 2.9 million Toyotas on the road, no-one buys the data off Toyota, and Holden have a lot of cars on the road in Australia (and) no-one buys their data here.


“Let’s not saddle the industry with the enormous cost of actually supplying this data in a certain format, in certain ways, in certain details, without the industry ever using it because all that does is put additional costs on new-car buyers – because there’s no free lunch here.”

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