I know we’ve all heard the headlines before: “The future of the electric car dims.”
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Nearly every OEM has dedicated a car to an electric platform. BMW has embraced hybrid and electric vehicle technology taking it as far as designing an entire new brand, BMW i, around the emerging market for luxury green vehicles. Toyota, GM, Ford have all taken electric vehicles to the next level and have showed incredible commitment despite high costs and development time to turn an EV concept into reality. In the end none of this will matter if you can’t develop your dealership network into a knowledgeable force that can effectively and efficiently these advanced powertrains. A local college in Metro Detroit has seen a drastic drop in enrollment for Hybrid classes so much in fact that the entire program has been put on hold. Over 15 classes this semester were cancelled.
Does the technology stand a chance without technicians? I asked one of lead instructors for the EV and Alt fuel programs why there would be such a loss of interest for the program, stating that it likely is a result of the recovering automotive manufacturing and repair sector. As these students are hired or rehired into the workforce they do not see the value in trying to learn a new very dangerous skill like Hybrid and Electric Vehicle repair. Working on Hybrid cars also requires serious investment, commitment, and dedication on part of the technicians who are required to purchase their own tools when working in a dealership repair environment.
The high voltage power systems can be lethal if the wrong situation presents itself. Much like power “Line workers”, they require special gloves to handle any part of the hybrid system and these gloves must be checked every time you use them and replaced every 6 months. While working on an electric system, a technician also requires very costly insulated tools to prevent the risk of shock or creating a short. A screwdriver alone can exceed $100.
So where is the incentive for a young technician to invest massive amounts of cash into tools for a small not yet lucrative market? Yes, there are some areas in the US were technicians are going to school to learn the technology and making a very good living doing so in the marketplace but there needs to be more. We cannot afford to invest in the technology without supporting the very base and core and what makes this all work.
For now the future of the electric car is dim.