Why the Tyre Sector Needs to Put Electric Vehicle Training into High Gear

With increasing consumer demand, greater availability of vehicles and government support, EV sales are increasing in parallel with the development of UK charging point infrastructure. By the end of October 2021, over 345,000 pure-electric cars were reportedly on UK roads, 675,000 when including plug-in hybrid models.

With the EV car parc expected to reach 12.7 million during the next 10 years, every business within the automotive repair and service sector will need to adapt. As the wheels of an electric vehicle will roll us into an emission-free future, specific attention needs to be given over to how the tyre industry is prepared to manage this uplift.

According to reports from recovery service companies, electric vehicles are twice as likely to suffer from a wheel or tyre related breakdown than their petrol or diesel equivalents. Due to the weight of heavy batteries, electric vehicles are often up to 20 – 30% heavier than non-electric counterparts. While a blessing for the planet, these heavy batteries will put greater pressure and load on tyres, leading to an increase in the number of repairs needed.

Reinventing the wheel

The pressure of the increased load means an ordinary tyre on an electric car won’t last quite as long or stand up to the demands of the vehicle while out on the road. In fact, conventional tyres on an EV would probably wear out 20% faster. Consequently, over the last couple of years, tyre manufacturers have announced the launch of new tyre technology for the electric age to handle the extra weight and withstand the instant torque for a smoother, more energy-efficient, low-impact ride.

Last year, Michelin launched its bespoke Pilot Sport EV tyre to support the increasing number of electric vehicles hitting the road, while Bridgestone Tyres announced that EV tyres will make up 20% of its total original equipment (OE) line-up for passenger cars by 2024 – up from just 4% in 2019. *

Fitting the wrong type of tyre on an electric vehicle could result in loss of range, extra noise, accelerated wear and the risk of failing while being driven, which could result in a serious incident. Consequently, tyre fitters and technicians working within fast fit environment need training to ensure they are familiar with the new technology and can work on them safely.

Keeping pace with the EV evolution

As the 2030 ICE ban draws closer, the introduction of new EV technology will continue to pick up speed along with the investment in the infrastructure needed to support the transition. However, greater consideration needs to be placed on training. The notion that EVs will feature within the garage of the future rather than today is completely wrong.

While there is little doubt that the majority of repair and servicing work carried out within UK garages today are on vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) garage owners are increasingly being contacted by EV owners for remedial or essential maintenance work – and tyres is one of the key areas.

The majority of first time electric vehicle owners will have a very basic knowledge of EV maintenance when they drive their new car off the forecourt. And while the majority of these vehicles are still under warranty, owners are inevitably starting to turn to their local garage and tyre fitter for both general advice and remedial work – leading to one of the most fundamental reasons to make EV training a priority.

“Simple repair work on an electric vehicle, from tyre replacements to wheel realignments, could take additional time for a technician. Safely isolating the high voltage system from the rest of the vehicle, and correctly re-instating it and this additional time requirement is something that customers are largely unaware of. Having the knowledge and explaining the process to a customer is imperative,” explains Dave Walker, Business Development Director of Autotech Training. “There is a whole new level of education needed around electric vehicles from the consumer through to the garage owner.”

Choosing the right level

There are four levels of electric vehicle training:

  • Level 1 – Simple awareness training which provides a basic understanding of electric vehicles and the safety requirements when working within the vicinity of an EV
  • Level 2 – Designed for those who will encounter electric/hybrid vehicles within a routine maintenance situation. It also contains the knowledge and skills required to work safely around a vehicle that may have had damage to its high energy/electrical system.
  • Level 3 – Equips the technician with the knowledge to work safely on and carry out repairs and maintenance activities on an EV
  • Level 4 – Teaches how to carry out repairs on live, high voltage vehicles and focuses on in-depth diagnostic of the systems within an EV

The level of training required is dependent on many variables such as the type of work carried out and specific job roles within the centre. It may be that service advisers and managers would engage at Level 1 to equip them with the confidence to talk to customers about their vehicles, whilst tyre technicians should be trained to Level 2 or 3.

Safety First

Ultimately, employers have a duty of care to ensure any vehicle technician working on an EV holds the necessary skills to work safely on, or around them. First and foremost, before any repair work can be carried out the garage needs to have an area which is prepared for EVs with the correct Health and Safety equipment available. Having the right tools is also essential, such as Class 0 insulated rubber gloves and face shields. Also required are the correct 1,000 volt rated tools and testing equipment to ensure the vehicle is safe to work on and carry out repairs.

Even some relatively simple modifications, such as wheel re-alignments, could require the safe isolation of the vehicle’s high voltage system. And, since power will still remain in the battery, vehicle technicians will need to remain vigilant.

“Not only will training ensure that a technician holds the relevant skill set, but it will also safeguard them against injury,” Dave continues. “We cannot lose sight of the fact that these are high-voltage vehicles, and the industry has a duty of care to ensure vehicle technicians have the necessary skills to work safely on, or around them. Employers may find themselves liable if an untrained employee is injured while working around an electric vehicle.”

Autotech Training, the dedicated training division of Autotech Group, has created a suite of EV training options enabling a garage of fast fit workshops to create a bespoke programme which directly meets their needs.

Certified to teach awareness training courses and IMI Levels 2 to 4 electric/hybrid vehicle training, Autotech Training can deliver training from their dedicated EV Training Suite within its Milton Keynes headquarters, or on the premises of any organisation to minimise downtime and employee travel expenses.

Eden Tyres & Servicing, a company which operates 19 branches across the Midlands has upskilled its technicians to manage the increased demand for electric vehicle repairs as Retail Director, Jim Nicholls explains:

“Looking at year on year car parc data and seeing the current trends, it is very clear to see that the electrification of the industry is moving at quite some pace which will only increase over the next couple of years. To see that Tesla was one of the top 3 selling brands in the UK last year is a clear picture of where we’re heading!”

“Investment in equipment is going to be important and looking at the set-up of workshops to accommodate these vehicles, but to me the vital key to continued success going forward is investing in the people in the business with top quality training. We have already undertaken a large amount of IMI Level 2 electric/hybrid vehicle training with Autotech Training to ensure that every single branch in the group has at least one Hybrid/EV trained technician.

Autotech Training have also briefed every branch manager, so they are aware of how differently Hybrid/EV vehicles need to be dealt with. In addition, we are working with the biggest tyre manufacturers to ensure we are in a position to offer good advice to our customers purchasing tyres and make sure we are offering the right tyre for the right vehicle. This approach has already shown an increase in customer confidence in using us to service and re-tyre a large selection of hybrid vehicles and the first small shoots of revenue from pure EV are now starting to grow across the business – a trend which is set to continue.”

For further information www.autotechtraining.co.uk