I get asked this question almost every week. “What will it cost me to enter the high-voltage world of electric cars and light trucks?”
That world has three major types of vehicles — hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicle (EV). If you have been reading my articles in this magazine, you may have some insights already into this new and not-so-new technology. For easier reading, we will use the term EMV to describe HEVs, PHEVs, and EVs. (There are also a small number of fuel cell vehicles.)
And remember — when servicing EMVs, marketing must be considered. Your community needs to know what you are doing. Before you invest any money, research your competition, know the EMV count in your area and have a plan. That should include your website, participating in auto service programs at local schools and buying a company EMV. It also might be time for a new logo or even a new wing on your building. And get some buy-in from your technicians.
To ballpark the cost of entry, let’s break this down into three levels of service. It is assumed you are starting from scratch and have not entered that market yet, so we will start with the least expensive and easiest-to-attain level of service.
LEVEL 1: MINOR SERVICE AND TIRES
Once you have safety training done, including using the proper lift points on the EMV’s frame, and own the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), the next step is securing safe testing equipment. About $2,000 to $3,000 will take care of basic PPE and equipment, such as three high-voltage safety glove kits, a couple CAT III 1000 volt meters and leads, safety cones, some signage, a good HEV-EV book and a tool box to store it all in. Your average new aftermarket scan tool should be enough. If your scan tool can take care of a new internal combustion engine-powered car or truck, it most likely will take care of a popular HEV.
In-person training is best when it comes to high-voltage safety, as the electrocution risk is always there. Finding that training is possible, so seek out what you can. If in-person training isn’t an option, webinars are the next best thing. Books, recorded videos and such may work, too. Many videos are free and paid by advertisers or under $200. Books range from $30 to hundreds of dollars. Don’t forget the local library.
My company, Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC), is one of many companies that provides EV training.
The work you will do at this level is simple preventive maintenance, wipers, tires, suspension, alignments, some brake work, fluids, oil changes and whatever you feel you can handle. Anyone working on EMVs must have some basic safety training. On a modern electric car or electric light truck, a high-voltage orange cable is often within 10 inches of a cabin air filter. Air conditioning work involves high-voltage systems.
LEVEL 2: HYBRIDS AND REMOVAL OF HIGH-VOLTAGE PARTS
This is a big step up from level one. Now you are replacing high-voltage parts, like a HEV battery pack or a high-voltage air conditioning compressor. Some of these jobs will require more equipment, like a new
refrigerant machine that can handle R1234yf coolant and works with high-voltage compressors, as well as insulated tools, some new pullers, specialized tools for Toyota inverters and a digital scope that is safe to use on HEVs. The cost to move up to this level can be in the thousands to over $20,000, if you include technical training and factory scan tools. At this point, we have avoided the EV market. That is next.
LEVEL 3: PLUGGING IN
This level can cost you another $10,000 to $20,000. A level I and II EVSE (Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment) - usually called a “charger” by those with little knowledge of the subject - will be needed to charge and test the high-voltage battery grid charging system. That will cost $2,000 to $4,000. A “break-out box” also will be needed. That will cost around $1,000. A high-voltage battery pack lift table and fixture will be required to remove battery packs that can weigh over 1,200 pounds. That will cost $5,000 to $8,000. More tools and equipment will cost $5,000 to $10,000.
Training your HEV techs on the new technology used in pure electric cars and trucks will run around $4,000 to $10,000. There may be some state and/or federal funding to help you with training, EV chargers and more, so check into that.
At ACDC, we’ve always been ahead of the curve. Our reputation was - and is - known and respected. You will only continue to see more electric vehicles at your dealership. Is this the time to invest in your future?