Total cost of ownership (TCO) for electric vehicles (EVs) could increase because of a lack of skilled mechanics able to keep older cars on the road, experts fear.
In the UK alone, there are 234,000 maintenance and repair technicians, but only 1,000 have current qualifications that enable them to work safely on electric and hybrid vehicles.
Expertise is concentrated within manufacturers and franchised dealers. The UK’s Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) says the independent garage sector has a critical role to play in maintaining the EV parc, but these businesses often lack the funding for training mechanics.
IMI research indicates that more than 90% of independent garages say they would need to retrain existing technicians to undertake work on EVs.
It argues that a lack of maintenance and repair technicians will push up repair costs as more cars reach the market and demand for servicing grows.
Already the IMI argues that insurance premiums for EVs are 30-50% higher than diesel cars.
Thatcham Research, the organisation that assigns insurance group ratings for new cars, says electric vehicles are subject to the same formula used for regular cars, but there are additions because repairs are potentially more complex. There is also less competition to drive down prices among qualified repairers.
The IMI yesterday called on the UK Government to invest £30m in specialist electric and hybrid vehicle training for thousands of maintenance and repair technicians in the independent retail sector.
Without the investment, maintenance costs could be forced up as demand for servicing exceeds supply. This is one of several factors that could discourage consumers and fleets from adopting the technology.
Steve Nash, chief executive officer of the IMI, said: ‘Independent garages make up 85% of the businesses operating in the service and repair sector. They will not invest in the training they need without certainty of a financial return.
‘That means that their staff will either risk their lives working on unfamiliar systems that carry lethally high voltages, or they will simply refer everything back to the franchised dealers, reducing competition in the sector.’
Doug Robertson, chairman of the Electric Vehicle Association Scotland, said training in the independent sector was something that would be needed as the industry developed.
He said: ‘When there are many more EVs being used there will be a bigger demand for independent garages, as more vehicles come back to the second-hand car market.’
In the year to the end of October 2016, more than 30,000 plug-in vehicles were registered in the UK, up nearly 40% on the same period last year.
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