Electric vehicles will change the automotive aftermarket but repair opportunities will remain plentiful for the industry.
For jobbers, it may mean keeping more ride control products in stock.
A joint electrification forecast presented by the Auto Care Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association highlighted several aftermarket opportunities with battery electric vehicles. One area where parts can wear down quicker in an EV than in an internal combustion engine vehicle is in ride control.
Electric drive motors can provide high torque at starting speeds. This may affect the life of half shafts, CV joints, tires and other undercar components, noted Carlos Thimann, director at Strategy&. Along with Akshay Singh, partner at Strategy&, he authored the report entitled Impact of New Technologies in the Automotive Aftermarket.
They wrote in the report that while it can be anticipated that automakers will compensate for the high torque, there have been multiple reports of high wear on electric vehicles.
“Even though a lot of this might be engineered into the product, it could be a situation where there might be some impact to the life of half shafts or CV joints,” Thimann said during AAPEX 2021 in Las Vegas where the report was presented.
This indeed appears to be what’s happening, noted experts from ride control companies.
“While many EVs currently utilize similar undercar platforms as their fossil-fueled counterparts, the increase in weight and torque of an electronic drivetrain can put more stress on undercar components,” said Andy Castleman, brand manager at Indiana-based KYB Americas Corporation.
A lower centre of gravity is a factor as well, noted Victor Moreira, technical services manager at Mevotech in Toronto. “All of these factors work together to add an increased amount of strain on undercar components, causing them to wear in a shorter amount of time when compared to a traditional vehicle.”
Original equipment manufacturers and, in turn, aftermarket companies, will need to figure out how to make stronger, lighter components to counter the added weight and drivetrain stress, Castleman said.
“Lighter components will also help to increase the range of the EV,” he added.
“The aftermarket must be able to supply the components and provide the knowledge to service providers on how to diagnose and maintain EVs.”
Coming up with ways to achieve these goals is what engineers across the industry are working hard at. Mevotech, for example, is taking ‘design failure mode and effect analysis’ approach to finding weak points in OE components. Those concerns are addressed by upgrading various elements of the component. A ‘finite element analysis’ method is then applied to evaluate upgrades to ensure expectations have been met.
“One example of this would be increasing the sphere size in an assembly’s ball joint,” Moreira told Jobber News.
“This upgrade increases the load handling capability of the ball joint which extends the overall service life of the component.”
These are complicated and sophisticated systems, Castleman observed, and it’s up to the aftermarket to ensure the right guidance and education is given to support these products. He recommended distributors and wholesalers work with manufacturers that provide training and online support for these such technologies.
“The aftermarket must be able to supply the components and provide the knowledge to service providers on how to diagnose and maintain EVs,” he said.
“Everything from the complex shapes and materials being used in control arms to the design space constraints of the vehicles can present potential challenges that need to be worked around,” Moreira said when asked about challenges the industry is facing.
“We also need to take the component’s strength-to-weight ratio into consideration when adapting the materials used. With EVs, even the magnetization of components during manufacturing may need to be addressed with a demagnetization process, in order to prevent any potential interference with the vehicle’s electronic systems. Applying the correct detailed analysis and having a true understanding of these elaborate systems are really the only solutions to successfully working around these challenges.”
When a shop calls their jobber for a component for an EV or even a hybrid, the counterperson needs to know that a part for an ICE vehicle may not be the right one to recommend. A shock or strut for one may not be compatible with the other.
“Damping rates, ride height, spring design all need to be considered,” Castleman told Jobber News. “Sport or luxury editions, different engine sizes, EV or [ICE] models can require different specifications to ensure the vehicle operates as designed.”
“For example, having worn springs can cause ‘suspension sag’ that alters the ride height and overall geometry of the suspension.”
Furthermore, as vehicles age, the stress placed on suspension components grows due to other work components. “For example, having worn springs can cause ‘suspension sag’ that alters the ride height and overall geometry of the suspension,” Moreira said. “This condition directly affects many other suspension components, causing them to wear aggressively.”
That makes communication essential between the shop and the jobber. As EVs are still relatively new to the marketplace, real-world information can help jobbers understand how to better help shops.
“How long are the undercar components on EVs lasting? What types of wear are they seeing on EV components that is different from non-EV vehicles?” Castleman noted as key questions. “No one truly knows how a system will perform until it is subjected to consumer driving habits.”
At the end of the day, jobbers need to see this area as a new selling opportunity. So they need to be properly prepared.
“Jobbers have always responded to changing vehicle technologies. There will be new and expanded opportunities,” Castleman said. “As the VIO of EV models continues to grow, jobbers need to adjust their inventory levels and parts mix to include components to fit this expanding market.”
Furthermore, with increased use in the rideshare and delivery space, the demands placed on vehicles mean ensuring they’re using better quality parts — an opportunity to sell premium products.
“Individuals that use their vehicles for these purposes need to be made aware that the added use increases vehicle demands. They are the perfect candidates for premium replacement components that provide the durability and service life to keep their vehicles operating trouble-free,” Moreira said.