While you may have invested in tools and training, Rob Marshall finds that it is worth spending some time not just researching which components are relevant but also knowing on whom you can rely.
Whatever you think about the wisdom of exchanging Arabian/ Russian oil for Chinese minerals, high-voltage transport remains a growing and intriguing proposition for all of us. Naturally, most new sales have come from businesses, keen to benefit from the tax incentives that compensates them (to an extent) for having to switch from the convenience of diesel. The fact that Synetiq, a leading vehicle recycling company, reports that demand for EV scrapping has increased tenfold within the last two years shows that the push for electrification is very much relevant for the aftermarket.
Again, whatever you think of the motivations behind the decisions, electrified transport has accelerated the rate of technological change. Unlike in previous years, where a new car model could inherit virtually all of the mechanical entrails of a generation or two previously, manufacturers are forced to upgrade and develop the running gear faster than before. Even model facelifts, which appear to be little more than a bonnet and bumper change, tend to harbour more substantial mechanical changes underneath. This situation is even more true of battery EVs and plug-in Hybrids, as the race between manufacturers to increase range is especially aggressive.
Therefore, when looking at a high-voltage vehicle, consider the challenges that manufacturers have faced. When looking at steering and suspension components, for instance, heavier high-voltage vehicles are likely to possess different shock absorber/damper specifications. Therefore, while dampers from conventional petrol/diesel models may bolt-on, they will be to the wrong specifications. This can lead to under damping, which prejudices both handling and braking distances. Other changes may be more obvious, such as different suspension designs. You may find additions, such as an extra rear-mounted Panhard rod. We have come across manufacturers fitting lighter suspension components to their EV models, such as castings manufactured from aluminium alloy, rather than iron.
When working on these exciting new technologies, consider that identifying the correct parts is another complication that you face.
Many garages have prioritised other services from their parts suppliers over price alone. Availability and range are typical examples. You may decide to align yourself with one main supplier, or several of them, but there are plenty of options.
LKQ Euro Car Parts provides an overview of the current situation: While the company says that it is dedicated to
Make no presumptions, even with popular models that possess high-voltage models. Vauxhall’s fully electric Corsa-e, for instance, has different subframes and suspension components, compared to its combustion- engined sisters.
doing everything that it can to support workshops through the current difficult environment, it encourages businesses to consider their futures. It reports that hybrid models are common among independent aftermarket workshops already and it foresees that additional high-voltage vehicles (including Battery Electric Vehicles) will not be far behind, once their manufacturer warranties expire.
Another parts supplier, Meyle, agrees. It states that, to keep up with the rising demand for electrified vehicles, expanding the expertise in the safe handling of high-voltage vehicles will make automotive workshops more competitive.
While we will not repeat our separate article on EV training, consider that some parts suppliers provide such opportunities to further your understanding. This is especially relevant with specialists. Take Nissens Automotive as an example, which concentrates on thermal management. Clearly, understanding the function of thermal management systems in modern high- voltage vehicles is essential, considering it differs considerably from the traditional cabin-only HVAC systems that have been employed for many decades. Nissens can provide you with not just this knowledge but also valuable diagnostic information.
Talent but not the tools…
Upskilling and being aware of the safety implications presented by high-voltage is all well and good but not very useful if you do not have the appropriate physical tools at your disposal. LKQ Euro Car Parts highlights that it has a full suite of equipment that contains everything that a technician needs to service high-voltage vehicles without suffering harm. Its safety pack, for instance, includes high-voltage floor matting, an insulated rescue pole and safety clamp, safety signage, an insulated face shield and gloves, extra-long hex keys and a 22-piece insulated toolkit. Yet, the company reports that it has paid special attention to ensure that its offerings are ‘budget friendly’.
The company also reports that high-voltage vehicles place a greater emphasis on software. LKQ Euro Car Parts reassures us that it is striving to ensure that vehicle manufacturers neither lock independent garages out of their gateways, nor fit parts that can be activated only through the manufacturer’s server.
Yet, the firm argues that diagnostic investment is only one part of the software investment strategy and garages should also embrace garage management systems that enhance customer service provision, while streamline quoting, invoicing, resourcing and parts ordering. It reveals that LKQ Euro Car Parts customers also benefit from exclusive access to CarSys, a cloud-based GMS application, which includes digital job cards, integrated HaynesPro data, job clocking, quick quoting and parts ordering.
The right parts for the right job…
Try to keep abreast of how suppliers are keeping ahead of the game. Naturally, this magazine strives to keep you informed with the latest developments. For instance, Meyle reports that its approach to improve OE quality has expanded to give birth to a fresh new range of components for high-voltage vehicles. This has resulted in its portfolio for these vehicles tripling within three years – impressive stuff. Yet, some parts incorporate the company’s philosophy of its HD range where OE parts are enhanced. Its latest addition is the introduction of a complete top suspension wishbone for Tesla’s 3 and Y models, which eradicates the annoying squeak that plagues the OE part.
Nissens also reports that it is preparing for future aftermarket demands. This includes expanding its radiator and air conditioning condenser ranges. For instance, it can satisfy 74% of the EU high-voltage car parc for high-voltage condensers. Understandably, these cover the most popular models, from Tesla Models S, 3 and X, through to Toyota/Lexus hybrids, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs and Nissan Leaf Battery Electric Vehicles. The company reports that it is poised to introduce components for recently introduced models, which comprise Audi’s e-tron, the BMW iX and the Mercedes-Benz EQC. The firm emphasises that workshops should have no concerns about quality, because its advanced test, validation and development capabilities are at the company’s core. These operations are carried out worldwide, including at a dedicated technology centre in Germany and an advanced in-house test centre in Denmark.
Even so, when considering components, it is easy to be distracted by high-voltage vehicle differences, rather than the similarities. High Voltage hybrids combine the best and worst of both electric and ICE technologies and, arguably, are the most complex technically. At service time, LKQ Euro Car Parts remind us that, like all other ICE cars, they still require the standard lubrication and filtration attention, although these operations can be conducted only when the high-voltage system is deactivated. Similarly, do not overlook consumable items, such as wipers and lighting. LKQ Euro Car Parts reminds us that it supplies these parts to its trade customers through the ordering platform, Omipart.
Finally, do not forget the value of aftermarket trade bodies, such as the Hybrid and Electrical Vehicle Repair Alliance (HEVRA). Some of its members may also advise you on their experience of certain parts, some of whom may have engineered their own products that are unavailable elsewhere, which are well worth considering.
What is a high-voltage vehicle?
Technology is changing quickly; so are definitions. AT defines a low-voltage hybrid as one that employs a sub 48-volts architecture that cannot move under its own power. Therefore, high- voltage hybrids comprise more than 48-volts and can drive under electric-only power. Yet, exceptions exist even to our classifications.
Most notably, certain Stellantis (mainly former Fiat Chrysler Automobile) models utilise a 1.5-litre GDI petrol engine, combined with a 48-volt drive motor within the pictured dual- clutch transmission. This architecture permits electric-only propulsion. These vehicles include hybrid versions of Fiat’s 500X and Tipo, the Jeep Renegade/Compass and Alfa-Romeo’s Tonale. Yet, their low-voltage systems and small batteries limit the EV-only range considerably but at least repair procedures do not involve high-voltage technician safeguards.