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Why Thermal Management Presents a Big EV Repair Opportunity

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Aug. 10, 2020—In an electric vehicle, thermal management means more than keeping the occupant nice and cool with air conditioning. A recent presentation from Mahle explained how cooling is critical for vehicle operation as well.

"The power electronics and battery need to be cooled. System failure can lead to a reduced cruising range or vehicle stoppage, possibly even damaged components, " according to comments from Jürgen Laucher, head of aftermarket thermal management for Mahle.

Similar to the coolant systems in internal combustion engines, EV motors and components need their own cooling systems. The repair and maintenance presents repair opportunities for shops, Laucher said. To illustrate how air conditioning becomes more of a critical cooling system in plug-in hybrids and full EVs, he showed how the systems differ depending on the powertrain.

Vehicles with internal combustion engines have the closed-loop systems that repairers are most familiar with.

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In a plug-in hybrid, the A/C system becomes more integral to the power components. According to Laucher: "As we transition to a plug-in hybrid, the air conditioning system becomes part of the powertrain. The battery, motor, and power electronics are cooled and thereby protected from damage and excess wear and tear."

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In a battery-electric vehicle, thermal cooling becomes a bigger factor in efficiency and range, Laucher said. Proper temperature of the battery and other components help them provide the proper level of power. At the same time, those systems would excessively drain the battery if not maintained properly. This makes it a potential area for repair shops to provide a lot of value to drivers. 

"The A/C service in the workshop thus helps to preserve the value and makes a decisive contribution to the vehicle’s operational reliability," Laucher said.

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Laucher presented thermal management as "the new service business for workshops in the diversified mobility of tomorrow" as he touted Mahle's aftermarket parts for those systems.

As shops look to transition to EV repair and maintenance, thermal systems should get close attention and training.

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