GOING ELECTRIC


How EVs are changing fleet SMR

AN IMPACT ON DOWNTIME?

The Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) also warns of possible delays with fast-fit replacements, in particular in more rural areas, and says that fleets need to be prepared for this until EVs become more widespread.

It also warns that fleets are seeing increased downtime in the event of an accident involving an EV.

Chair Paul Hollick comments: “I think fleet managers need to expect that if an electric vehicle is in an accident, it’s probably going to be off the road an extra couple of days, so they need to plan for that – potentially putting an employee into a hire vehicle.”

And Peter Golding of FleetCheck advises of anecdotes where relatively straightforward accident repairs are taking longer.

“I’ve heard of cases where the vehicle has to be recovered to a main dealer to have the electrics done then recovered back to the body shop to do the body repairs.”

Meanwhile, Steve Thornton, commercial director at specialist fleet management provider i247 Group, warns that fleet managers need to be aware of the volume of warranty issues they may face from drivers, and the number of recalls from manufacturers.

He adds that this is not to do with the fact that the cars are EVs – the perception that EVs have more problems is wrong – but all brand-new model entrants come with a variety of warranty issues that are typical of early model releases and new product features.

“Earlier this year there was an issue with the VW ID.3 and its infotainment system and BMW 530e with its charging cable,” says Thornton. “None of this is atypical. The warranty claims on new EVs are at a similar level to the warranty claims on new ICE cars. Nevertheless, fleet managers should be prepared for more off-the-road warranty time for new EVs.”

“I think fleet managers need to expect that if an electric vehicle is in an accident, it’s probably going to be off the road an extra couple of days, so they need to plan for that – potentially putting an employee into a hire vehicle.”

Paul Hollick, Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), chair

QUALIFIED FOR THE JOB?

While fleets are increasingly adopting EVs, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) warns this speed may not be being matched by the ability of the SMR sector to support these vehicles.

While the franchise networks are fast-ramping up their EV skills, the latest data from the IMI for 2020 shows that currently just 6.5% of the UK automotive industry overall is qualified to work on electric vehicles.

It’s something the IMI has huge concerns over, both for fleet downtime and the risk of someone trying to fix a problem that they’re not qualified to tackle, with the consequent risk of injury or death.

As such, Steve Scofield, IMI head of business development, says fleets need to have a very clear policy about how SMR should be handled for EVs.

He comments: “There can’t be a default to the same technician workforce used for petrol and diesel unless a fleet manager has clear indication that accredited EV training has been completed. And with only 6.5% of the whole automotive sector currently qualified to work on electric vehicles this would be a big assumption to make.”

It’s something that the IMI is trying to tackle – both by working with training centres and businesses right across the industry to support the uplift in EV-accredited technicians and by urging for qualifications and standards on EVs to be mandated.

“There’s no question that the fleet sector is key to this,” Scofield adds.

“Representing such a large proportion of the UK car parc, people working the fleet SMR are probably at the forefront of the upskilling challenge.”

HEVRA – the Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance – is also working to ensure fleet and retail drivers have access to independent repairers that are qualified to work on hybrid and electric vehicles without being required to use the franchise network.

“Only 6.5% of the whole automotive sector is currently qualified to work on electric vehicles”

It provides technical support to the UK’s independent electric vehicle repair garages and a means for drivers to find garages in their area; it has more than 100 independent specialists listed on the HEVRA website.

Supply chain management firm Fleet Assist also believes that fleets need to make sure that their garage network used for servicing and maintenance is EV-ready – over 3,800 of its garage network, which comprises franchised, fast fit and independent garages, is now capable of working on hybrid and electric vehicles.

“Not all garages are equipped to manage EVs so this should be a priority,” says managing director Vincent St Claire.

“Fleets should review their service maintenance and repair work direction policies to ensure that the vehicle is taken to the most appropriate garage, taking into consideration work required, garage capabilities and budgetary controls. EV work should only be directed to garages that have trained technicians that can carry out the work on hybrids and EVs.”

Kwik Fit is also placing a huge importance on training with over 500 of its technicians qualified to work on EVs. Dan Joyce says: “Despite the significantly reduced requirements for replacement parts at point of service or general repair, fleets should still factor in the requirement for skilled technicians to provide even basic vehicle maintenance. A supplier that adopts an industry-standard EV accreditation across its network of technicians is advised.”

4 EXTRA AREAS TO CONSIDER

BATTERY HEALTH IS ALSO MAJOR FACTOR

It’s a subject in its own right but protecting and maintaining battery health is another major consideration around SMR for EVs, according to Alphabet GB.


“Whilst most manufacturers will offer a warranty of 8-10 years or 100-120k miles, the industry recommendation is to avoid excessive use of rapid charging points as this can lead to battery life depletion. Where possible, it’s advised to plug-in and charge at a lower KW for a longer time period and only charge at higher KW rapid points when necessary.”

Steve Leonard, maintenance manager at Alphabet GB

TELEMATICS CAN BRING VALUABLE INSIGHTS

Telematics data is also very helpful for identifying mechanical issues with EVs, as with all cars.


“For those using telematics to stay ahead of routine and emergency maintenance, this information can also help prevent failures in an electric fleet. Using telematics for real-time diagnosis of maintenance issues will help protect fleets from further complications down the line, saving money and time in service, maintenance and repairs.”

Adam Hall, director of energy services at Drax

ONSITE CHARGING NEEDED AT SMR SITES

SMR providers will need charging facilities onsite for EVs to avoid issues for service levels – something fleet operators need to be aware of too.


“For example, to avoid customer inconvenience when collecting vehicles, SMR centres might need to consider installing fast (7kW-22kW) or possibly even rapid (50kW+) charging stations, particularly if there isn’t a good coverage of rapid charging stations available nearby for customers.”

Charlie Cook, founder of Rightcharge

SMR COSTS MAY LOWER BUT OTHERS MAY RISE

While SMR costs for EVs are typically lower, upfront costs need to be factored in too for the switch to EVs.


“These may go some way to offsetting the savings on SMR. Maintenance planning can also be factored into the TCO calculations, especially with electric LCVs, which typically have more predictable routes than company cars and which are more readily captured by the use of latest technology, such as telematics.”

Sue Branston, country head of Fleet Logistics UK and Ireland

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