Auto Physical Damage

Is Your Collision Repair Facility Ready for Electric Vehicles?

July 12, 2019


By 2022, owning an electric vehicle will be as cheap as owning one that runs on fossil fuels, and sales will grow much more quickly.1

Some automakers are staking their futures on electric vehicles (EVs). General Motors announced it will launch twenty new, completely electric vehicles by 2023. VW plans to build 22 million electric cars in ten years. Daimler plans to offer an electrified variant for every model in its portfolio. According to a recent report from Deloitte, electric cars are nearing a tipping point. By 2022, “owning an electric vehicle will be as cheap as owning one that runs on fossil fuels, and sales will grow much more quickly.”1 While EVs still represent a very small percentage of the overall market, the collision repair industry must anticipate electric and hybrid vehicles playing a more prominent role soon.

Three Challenges for Electric Vehicle Repair

Electric vehicles provide many benefits to their owners, such as reduced emissions and lower fuel costs. However, estimating, diagnosing and repairing an EV damaged in a collision may present new challenges that your technicians have never seen. Here are three challenges of electric vehicle repair facing the collision industry.

1. Growth of Special Materials

Due to the ever-increasing average fuel economy and vehicle safety standards, automakers are in a race to manufacturer lighter vehicles with more efficient engines and safer structures. In a five-year span, estimates written for vehicles with special materials grew from just over 3% to over 19%. As collision repair facilities face a higher percentage of claims that involve more complex, lighter weight materials, they are investing in obtaining the necessary equipment, repair data software solutions, training and skills required to obtain certification for the repairs.

2. Disarming the High Voltage System

There are many rules of conduct and protective measures to follow to prevent injury or harm to the technician. Al Thomas, department head of Collision Repair at Pennsylvania College of Technology, stresses that high voltage batteries (300 volts or more) can kill a technician who has not disarmed the high voltage system properly. Furthermore, regenerative braking systems can produce enough electricity to injure the technician pushing the disabled vehicle around the collision repair facility.2

3. Additional Refinishing Time

Because of the electric battery, EVs cannot be cured in a typical paint booth bake cycle. Car manufacturers, such as Audi, Lexus, Tesla, Toyota and Volvo, have released position statements about baking temperatures during the paint process. According to Fender Bender, “collision repair and auto body shops may need to adapt their processes and equipment.” They recommend short wave electric infrared (IR) curing technology as the best solution for curing electric vehicles without causing damage or reducing throughput. This technology “allows shops to safely repair electric vehicles, while offering significant improvements in quality and efficiency.”3

Avoid These Common EV Repair Mistakes

The challenges electric cars present related to repair can be overcome through knowledge and training. Make sure your collision repair facility staff is educated on recommended repair procedures and reviews these four common mistakes.

1. Failure to Follow OEM Procedures

There are millions of vehicles on the road, and the definition of what constitutes proper and safe repair varies widely between every make, model and year. Current estimates indicate that a collision technician needs to reference more than 500,000 pages of repair information to execute today’s repairs correctly. Jeffrey Poole, a training coordinator at I-CAR, believes knowledge is power. “You should know about recommended repair processes and methods before you start working on an electric vehicle,” says Poole.4 One way for collision repair facility owners to stay up-to-date on vehicle-specific information is through a cloud-based system that provides easy access to OEM repair procedures during the repair.

A “technical tsunami” is flooding the repair industry with cutting-edge vehicle advancements. If you’re not training on new technologies and materials, you’re falling behind.5

2. Inadequate Training

I-CAR calls it a “technical tsunami” that’s flooding the repair industry with cutting-edge vehicle advancements. “If you’re not training on new technologies and materials, you’re falling behind.”5

3. Disregard for Personal Safety

Along with training and tools, there are real dangers if collision repair facilities fail to take proper safety precautions. Craig Van Batenburg, CEO of the Automotive Career Development Center, recommends purchasing specific safety equipment to handle electrical components.4

4. Lack of System Knowledge

The average late model vehicle has 60 to 100 computer control modules and sensors, with that number growing to over 200 as cars become increasingly more complex. Many of these sensors directly link to safety systems. Don’t assume that all electric systems are the same. Once you understand the challenges and common mistakes, there’s no reason to be fearful of electric vehicle collision repair. By continuing to invest in tools, training and access to OEM repair procedures, you’ll to ensure that you’re prepared to follow proper guidelines as the growing trend towards vehicle electrification rises.