Australia still needs thousands of mechanics trained in electric vehicle maintenance and time is running out to train them as one expert estimates it will cost $100 million to retrain NSW staff alone.
Lift the hood of an electric vehicle and it looks like something is missing.
Electric cars have no transmission, fuel pump, head gasket or spark plugs and generally fewer moving parts.
The changes are drastic enough to strike even a casual observer and could easily stump a home mechanic or panel beater, but also have the potential to challenge trained mechanics.
Motor Trades Association NSW chief Stavros Yallouridis warns Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in retraining its car workforce.
More than 100,000 Australian technicians will need further training to service the growing number of electric vehicles on Australian roads by 2030. Experts warn that little attention has been paid to tackling the problem.
Automotive groups are calling on state and federal governments to take urgent action to boost electric vehicle training and prevent a “messed electric vehicle rollout.”
It’s a predicament that industry associations raised after the last federal budget, which included benefits tax cuts to boost adoption of electric vehicles, but didn’t address how they would be serviced.
Motor Traders Association of NSW EV trainer Anthony Bonnano is working on an MG electric car in Sydney
There are more than 83,000 electric cars on Australia’s roads and more than 100,000 are expected to take to the streets in the coming months
Issues such as fuel emission standards and charging infrastructure have dominated the debate about getting more electric cars on Australian roads, but the issue of their maintenance has been ignored.
“Specialized training in electric car and battery maintenance for mechanics is critical to prevent workplace safety and driver risks,” says Mr Yallouridis.
NSW has more than 49,000 licensed automotive technicians, with more than 100,000 nationwide.
Mr. Yallouridis says the association has invested $1 million in purchasing specialist electric vehicle equipment from Germany to create short educational courses on safety and maintenance.
But he says training the entire NSW workforce would cost more than $100 million and governments need to work with industry to share costs and develop standards.
“Doing anything less is reckless and jeopardizes transformation, jeopardizing our country’s ability to reduce emissions and meet our international obligations,” said Mr. Yallouridis.
“No one wants to see a failed rollout of electric cars. That must be properly scaled up in one go.’
There are more than 83,000 electric cars on Australia’s roads and more than 100,000 are expected to take to the streets in the coming months.
Despite the modest numbers, Hugo Acosta of Carma, a vehicle management company, says the shortage of mechanics trained to service electric cars is already becoming apparent.
Mr. Acosta says the company, which inspects, reconditions and sells used vehicles online, is struggling to find mechanics trained to service both gasoline and electric cars.
“There is a backlog in offering certification and training for these technicians,” he told AAP.
Carma was in the market for a few apprentices, but recruits had limited opportunities and had to choose whether to take a four-year course in electric or gasoline vehicles—not both.
“Of the registered training organizations, only seven offer EV training for students, compared to 168 organizations for (combustion engine) cars,” says Acosta.
‘That is of course a challenge, because new people are coming into the industry and they have to choose.’
Collin Jennings, MTA NSW’s head of government relations and advocacy, says automotive industry apprenticeships are also complicated by their hands-on component.
Each apprentice must be paired with a mechanic trained in electric vehicle maintenance, which is not yet a common qualification.
“A lot of what students do is on-the-job training,” he says.
“While apprenticeships can begin today, the question is whether the person in that workshop supervising the apprentice has the skills (to maintain an electric vehicle).”
Workers in related fields will also require further training. For example, handling an electric car that has been damaged in an accident can pose risks to untrained personnel.
“Every technician, whether they work in a service center, to truck drivers, panel beaters, painters, will all need to be retrained in how to shut down an electric vehicle,” says Mr Jennings.
‘Batteries of electric vehicles have a storage capacity of about 800 volts. If they are damaged and not handled properly, they can be dangerous.’
Now Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen and now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese can be seen at an electric vehicle car dealership in 2021
Australia may only have seven years to ramp up training for thousands of new and experienced car workers.
The ACT has adopted a sales target of 80 per cent of electric vehicle sales by 2030, with Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and NSW aiming to reach 50 per cent market share by then.
If governments don’t work quickly with industry, Australia’s transport transition could hit another speed bump.
“We don’t want to be in a situation five years from now where three-quarters of the workforce doesn’t know how to operate electric vehicles,” says Jennings.