Electric Vehicles, Renewables

Servicing EVs: Bringing mechanics up to speed

Huge numbers of new electric vehicles are hitting Australia’s roads, but the nation’s auto electricians and mechanics currently lack the know-how to service them. Skillbuild is addressing this problem.

With Australia’s uptake of electric vehicles accelerating, the nation is facing a shortfall of skilled auto electricians, mechanics and repairers who are adept at working on what’s under EV bonnets.

For auto electricians who were trained on traditional combustion engine vehicles, the working components of an EV are different to what they are accustomed. Identifying a hole in this clean energy space, Albury-based national registered training organisation Skillbuild is offering students EV training courses.

The course is for auto electricians and mechanics who want to depower and repower hybrid and electric vehicles. Delivered by electrician and heavy diesel mechanic Neil Beveridge, the Skillbuild course offers education in EV charging, maintenance and servicing.

The course covers safely depowering hybrid and electric vehicles, servicing and repowering the battery system. It allows participants to access manufacturers’ manuals and work on an EV.

“We discovered there are not enough technicians in Australia,” says Beveridge.

“In conjunction with an overseas company, we have developed virtual reality and augmented reality, with online training, to get in the market so students can get their head around the way EVs work.

“In 2025, EVs are going to become bidirectional compatible so they can feed homes and feed back into the grid, which bleeds into renewable energy training.

“With auto technicians on the EVs, we started with the repower-depower safety course, and now we strip down a few vehicles and do training in EV conversion projects.

“We are also doing diagnosis, repairs, fault-finding, disassembling and reassembling – fully stripping down and rebuilding individual components, then putting them back together.”

For mechanics and auto electricians who don’t have experience working with electric vehicles, the Skillbuild course is opening a world of learning in a rapidly evolving segment.

“Coming from a mechanical background, I know mechanics have been left unchecked in the industry in regards to upskilling,” says Beveridge.

“Vehicles have changed so much since they were first invented. Pistons still go up and down, fuel goes in and burns, but we have tweaked a few systems, and in many respects, mechanics have been left to figure it out.

“However, this is a revolutionary change. We no longer have the engine and fuel, and are dealing with electronics, which is a whole new field for mechanics.”

Initial interest in the Skillbuild EV training course has been from the private market, predominantly car enthusiasts with a thirst for knowledge on how EVs work.

“These people are saying, ‘We don’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know what we need to know.’ We are basically trying to teach them to be pseudo electricians.”

From a legislative standpoint, there are still many grey areas to work through.

“Governments are still trying to tweak legislation to figure out what works,” says Beveridge.

“There are existing conflicting rules and regulations with regards to if the electrics are on a house, unqualified people would not be able to touch it. But because it is on a vehicle, mechanics can touch it unrestricted. This is mainly because when EV standards were written, voltages were not as high. But things have changed.

“It’s a slightly messy area at the moment that we’re trying to navigate our way through. It is a bit of a minefield.

“Government has been really receptive to change, but they are a bit slow to move because when they commit, they want to ensure they commit to the right thing.”

The problem facing the industry is that EVs are already on the road and are coming to Australia every week. Therefore, more of this training is needed to bring the auto industry up to speed.

“We do training for electricians with EV charging, and are already doing training for auto technicians on how to diagnose problems, repairs, fault-finding and depower-repower, but there is enormous potential to roll it out in a more systematic fashion,” says Beveridge.

“When policy catches up, the expectation is it will be part of the learning curriculum for mechanics.

“The rollout of EVs is still in its early stage in Australia, but with plans across the nation to increase fleets during the next few years, it’s going to be an interesting navigation. There are thousands of mechanics across the country who are going to need to know this stuff.

“This is the first time we have had vehicles and homes meshed. Some of these vehicles are capable of powering a house, yet you have a mechanic who has to repair it because it’s on wheels.

“An electrician usually deals with things that plug into a house, with all their standards. It’s going to be a really interesting hybrid between the two industries.”

For more information, visit skillbuild.edu.au.

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