Training the Mechanics of the rEVolution

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How do you repair an EV? That depends on what’s wrong with it. Perhaps you need a mechanic, or a panel beater and spray painter. Perhaps we need an auto electrician or a software engineer. I recently visited a Queensland TAFE (Technical and Further Education) college where they were designing courses to fill the gaps of qualified mechanics. Their greatest demand was for training in air conditioning and electric vehicles. Most of the training in EVs was about how to depower the vehicle and keep yourself safe.

Now the Perth (Western Australia) South Metropolitan TAFE on behalf of the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC) has done a thorough analysis of the gaps in training for mechanics of the future when working with EVs. The name of the report is: Vocational skills gap assessment and workforce development plan.

From the report: “Globally, car manufacturers continue to increase electric vehicle (EV) production, with EVs expected to comprise 54% of the global passenger car fleet and 73% of all vehicle sales by 2050.

“In Australia, it is expected that EVs will comprise 26 per cent of new vehicle sales in 2030. However, the transition from internal combustion engine vehicles to EVs will occur over a long period as full transport electrification is not expected in Australia until 2050. Automotive peak industry groups have identified EVs as posing the biggest challenge to Australia’s automotive industry.

“Car manufacturers view Australia’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure as being robust. Several State Governments, the Commonwealth Government and private sector investment have contributed to the growth of public charging stations. Australian companies have also had significant success in manufacturing EV charging stations for local and international markets.”

As I watch the sales figures come in each month from Europe, China, and the USA, I believe that this forecast is off target by quite an order of magnitude. 2050 is long way away — at the moment, global sales of EVs are doubling each year. Installed capacity indicates that next year in excess of 10 million EVs will be produced. This is about 15% of global light vehicle sales. At this rate, 80% of light vehicle sales will be electric well before 2030, which is 20 years before the expected target assumed by this report. In Australia, the situation will not be much different, just a little delayed. This is my humble opinion and I may be wrong. 

Issues and gaps identified in the report include: the differences between EVs in both hardware and software. There is a mammoth difference between a Tesla and a BMW i3, for example. I would also add that EVs are changing rapidly and it will be difficult to keep up. Thus, manufacturers require their technicians to undergo their own specific trainings. On the other side, will every new mechanic need to know how to work with internal combustion engines, exhaust systems, fuel systems, and transmissions?

Will there need to be a melding of the two existing skillsets for automotive mechanics and auto electricians in the diagnosis, service, and repair of battery electric vehicles? There will certainly need to be training of the trainers and access to electric vehicles to provide a proficient changeover from internal combustion mechanic to 21st century mechanic of the rEVolution.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 730 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth