Electric vehicles are designed with careful “attention to detail.” Ignoring that detail or not respecting that could have serious consequences, according to an EV automaker leader.
Jake Rodenroth, manager of body repair program operations at Lucid Motors, told attendees of the 2022 Technology Conference hosted by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association that technicians need to pay attention to vehicle design.
For example, a hot coolant line can’t touch something that isn’t meant to be hot.
“So when the whole front end of the vehicle is wiped off and you’re reassembling and all those kinds of things, there’s a lot of attention to detail on how the vehicles is reassembled,” he explained. “You can create a problem that’s different in a gas vehicle in a lot of ways if you’re not sensitive to those kinds of things.”
Qualification is a must — if a technician hasn’t been trained appropriately, they should stay away. Most EVs have a 400-volt architecture. Some are 800, others are 900 volts. These vehicles can hurt you and vice versa.
“The thing about EVs is, as a repairer, you can either hurt them, or they can hurt you. So if you’re not qualified to work on one, you’ve never been through the approved training and do not have the approved tooling, it’s just not worth it to take on something like that until you’ve done so,” Rodenroth explained.
Some techs will want to apply the same tricks they used when working on a traditional internal combustion engine — learn as they go. That’s a bad idea.
“It seems like there’s a whole group of repairers out there and they’re willing to just start learning on customer vehicles and that can cause a big problem in an EV,” Rodenroth said. “You’re either going to hurt yourself, or you’re going to damage a very expensive component in a high-tech vehicle. And I don’t think we want either one. So I can’t stress the training and tooling part of it enough.”
Everything an EV does is different than that of an internal combustion engine vehicle, he added. Even EVs from brand to brand can vastly differ.
“Just because they both consume electricity doesn’t mean they work the same,” Rodenroth said. “Be very sensitive to that that Ford’s going to do a different than Chevy and Chevy is going to do it different Tesla, Tesla’s going to be different than Rivian and certainly Rivian’s going to be different than Lucid.”
He also pointed out that aerodynamics are essential to EVs. Reduced drag increases battery range. But some of the things that increase aerodynamics also make things more difficult for repairers. Take door handles — these typically recess into the body shell. Techs need to ensure that the vehicle is in proper working order before being handed back to the customer.
“These are just more things that we have to diagnose and make sure they’re working the way they were supposed to work and designed to work,” Rodenroth said.