Safety Key for Effective EV Repair
We’re in a weird spot in the process of EV adoption—they’re prevalent enough for most OEMs and other major players in the automotive industry to jump on the bandwagon and make significant investments in long-term development, but the technology isn’t quite consistent enough for the cars to fully break into the mainstream market.
That puts repairers in a tough spot, as many still aren’t sure if they should dive headfirst into EV repair or wait it out a little longer. Also complicating matters is that key information for how to deal with those vehicles as they come into shops can be difficult to find at times.
At the end of the day, though, fully electric and hybrid electric vehicles have significantly grown in popularity over the last decade and will only continue to do so. Because of that, shops need to know how to properly handle EVs as they come in.
“It’s critically important, and most shops have just scratched the surface because there hasn’t been widespread adoption of EVs just yet,” Michelle Corson, CEO of On the Road Companies, says. “There’s certainly the need for training around proper protective equipment for techs to have when handling EVs.”
Though EVs have fewer moving parts than ICEs, the battery and power systems can still be significantly dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most EVs use batteries that can pack upward of 600 volts.
The Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance and Technology says the primary risks of working on EVs and hybrids “are electrocution and the possibility of the car turning on accidentally while work is being performed,” making safety training essential.
The factsheet says using personal protective equipment such as heavy rubber Class 0-rated gloves can help prevent electrocution, and waiting at least 15 minutes after the battery has been disconnected from the vehicle can also help prevent accidental contact with a hot circuit.
In addition to standard maintenance safety procedures, EVs also pose a significant fire risk.
Corson gave the example of a Tesla crash back in April near Houston that took nearly four hours and more than 30,000 gallons of water to put out. At one point, according to KHOU, first responders had to call Tesla to figure out the most effective way to extinguish the flames.
“My biggest fear as a shop owner is the potential for fire. When these fires start, they’re very hard to put out,” she says. “While I don’t think we’re likely as shop owners to have a car slam into something at your shop, there is a concern to make sure that if there’s a fire, there’s a way to put it out.”
Knowing how to prevent accidents from happening in your shop and how to safely handle emergencies will be key as EVs become more prominent in the coming decades.
“The industry needs to be mindful as we see a lot more EVs come to market and make sure they have what they need in terms of infrastructure to protect their employees,” Corson says.