The adage “fool me once” has reared its head again.
Lately, owners and technicians are asking a question about hybrids and electric vehicles that takes me back to the introduction of emission testing: “How much to get into this?” This is a valid question as nobody wants to get burned again, though there is a larger picture to consider.
The first part is easy. If you decide your shop will service and repair hybrid and EVs, it makes sense to seriously consider the financial investment. Some owners and managers have likely performed a rudimentary search to identify the tools and equipment required. Others may have taken a deep dive down the rabbit hole and have an exact list of items they want.
Consider your shop setup. Most common service work on hybrids and EVs can be performed in any service bay, provided the hoist is up to the lifting task — some EVs are heavy! From tires to brakes, steering and suspension, it’s unlikely that the high-voltage system will be touched … until the repair requires the high-voltage system to be powered down. When service information requires a ‘main disconnect’ to be removed or turned off, the larger picture comes into play.
Does it make sense to service and repair a hybrid or EV in a high-traffic area of the shop? That is a firm “no.” People are naturally curious about these vehicles. Some can’t help themselves and touch things, while others may be inquisitive to the point of distracting the technician.
Staff can usually be trained to recognize and avoid an area where high-voltage service is taking place. However, lapses in judgment or common sense are common. Reminders, and what we call ‘attention-grabbers,’ are required to reinforce that it may not be safe to approach or touch a technician or hybrid/EV that is in for service.
When high voltage is involved, the vehicle should be cordoned off. Every employee should be made aware of what this means.
When high voltage is involved, the vehicle should be cordoned off. Every employee should be made aware of what this means. Tall (45-inch) orange ‘delineator posts’ strung with danger tape or red plastic chain placed to isolate the vehicle get the point across. Add a “Caution, high voltage” sign for good measure. Unfortunately, some see these warnings as a challenge to overcome — this should be addressed immediately.
Shop policy should state that the servicing technician is always present when high voltage is exposed, and he or she shall remain with the vehicle until it is ‘safed-down.’ Leave the barriers up for the entire service operation.
Customer control is another consideration. This topic has been around for decades. We all know the type. Intercept these customers at the reception desk to keep them out of the service area. Summer is on its way and bay doors may be open. Ensure the cordoned-off area extends around and behind the vehicle as necessary, and that customers are respecting the safe zone.
Speaking of safe zones, ensure the cordoned-off area extends around high-voltage dangers removed from the vehicle. EV battery packs can be half to three-quarters the length of the vehicle when removed and are almost as wide. They are large, heavy and dangerous if not respected.
A separate room to service or store battery packs is the best, but not always an option. Battery packs should never be left unattended when high voltage is exposed. Covers should always be reinstalled if work stops while waiting for parts or service.
Storage of removed interior panels and pieces should be addressed. Many hybrids require seat backs, seats, panels, cooling ducts and storage compartments to be removed to access the high-voltage battery. Consider providing a storage area for this ‘clutter’ to keep it clean and the work area organized.
Speaking of storage, under-vehicle splash panels are abound on EVs. A storage area for these panels (other than inside the vehicle) is helpful. A stocked assortment of plastic panel clips will help to speed up the reassembly process. However, drilling out the broken m6 panel bolts will slow your technician down. Remember to add clips and drilling/tapping time to the estimate.
Tools and equipment
Tools and equipment are some of our favourite things. The following list will help to identify those that your shop will need to service hybrids and EVs. This basic list is in addition to standard first aid and fire response tools and equipment. How much to get in? It depends on what you need on a list such as this…
▶Required CAT III 1000v rating
▶You probably have a meter that meets this specification but does not test wire insulation. A ‘megger’ performs HV wire insulation tests by applying 50-1000v and measuring “electron leakage” through the insulation. Most are also a DVOM
Long test leads and extended grippers
▶CAT III 1000v rating required for all leads and probes
Class “0” High Voltage Glove Kit w/leather outer gloves
▶Class “0” glove certification lasts for six months
▶Certified for 1000 volts AC
Precision Milliohm Meter or 3-Phase Motor Tester
▶Accurately tests motor-generator stator windings
Charge Port B.O.B.
▶Break-out Box connects between the charge port and charger to provide access to the charge port circuits during use for level 1 and 2 charging diagnostics.
Insulated Hand Tools/Small Items (Working on live HV circuits is rare)
▶Certified 1000v (double triangle) Screw drivers, 1/4” and 3/8” ratchets, sockets, and pliers
▶Slip on anti-spark lug covers (to cover wire end lugs after disconnecting)
Non-Conductive Work Surface
▶To be used during battery pack service and repair
Battery Module Lifting Table (recommended)
▶Appropriate weight rating is important
▶Diagnosis is challenging without one
▶Differential probes are required to directly measure high voltage
Technician Disconnect Pole
▶Perimeter tape (commonly says “Danger” or “Caution”)
Technician and support staff training
Mike Bailey is chief technical and developmental officer and co-founder of Environmental Motorworks. He is a licensed 310S and 310T Technician in Ontario and is certified to deliver HRAI’s Ozone Depletion Certification Program, as well as the EPA Section 609 Automotive Refrigerant Training Program in the U.S.