Safety lacking for electric vehicle technicians: report

Technicians servicing electric vehicles are worried the OEMs they’re working for aren’t concerned for their safety.

A new IDC Manufacturing Insights and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) survey of more than 2,000 global automotive professionals reveals a significant gap between what safety training service technicians need, and what OEMs are doing to meet these needs.

"Electric and hybrid vehicles employ high voltage drivetrain batteries and the required charging systems will potentially have a profound impact on the safety of service technicians in the field," said Sheila Brennan, program manager, Aftermarket and Service Strategies at IDC Manufacturing Insights.

 "Our study found that the service information provided by OEMs does not optimally meet the needs of service technicians. And while many OEMs are working to improve service and safety information, some of these initiatives may be misaligned with how the technicians themselves perceive their needs."

As there is still a relatively small number of electric and hybrid electric vehicles on the road today, most technicians have limited exposure to electric powertrain technologies, the report indicates.

But as the technology becomes more common and complexity advances, the importance of accurate and up-to-date service information and continued safety training for service technicians will increase.

According to the report, technicians at independent repair facilities are much less prepared than dealerships to handle the safety challenges stemming from new vehicle technologies.

IDC Energy Insights estimates that there will be over 2.7 million plug-in electric vehicles worldwide by 2015. As the electric vehicle industry grows, so do the challenges of servicing and repairing them effectively and safely.

According to the new survey, OEMs and technicians have differing opinions about the appropriateness of current service tools to ensure technician safety such as training, safety instructions, and service manuals.

Half of the surveyed OEMs in management roles expect service safety for electric vehicles will improve, while only 25% of designers and service information developers thought so.

IDC Manufacturing Insights suggests that software and service support tool providers will have an opportunity to hone their wares in order to help management provide timely, accurate safety information to their technicians.