Electric vehicles and hybrids are accelerating the increasing complexity of motor vehicle construction and technology including safety systems. This has developed rapidly in the last few years and imposes enormous challenges on the electric vehicle collision repair capability, and is changing the nature of traditional panelbeating work. The investment in advanced skill levels and specialised equipment are significant, and impose great cost on an already low margin sector. Some insurance companies are recognise the problem, most consumers are entirely unaware and even commercial fleet managers are surprised at the extent of the industry catch-up required. The image shows a stripped down BMW i3 with collision damage awaiting repair, and illustrates the highly sophisticated nature of it’s construction. We thought the problem worth profiling and found the issues had been quite well covered by the NZ Herald recently so have presented their article in full.
The Collision Repair Association (CRA), New Zealand’s largest body of panel beaters, is introducing new standards to deal with increasingly complex electric vehicle collision repair, spokesman Neil Pritchard said. “While EVs are touted as having a reduced need for mechanical servicing, when it comes to collision repairs there is a significant increase in the risk and repair complexity to get them back on the road,” Pritchard said.
“Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable and the risk associated with lithium-ion batteries found in EVs adds a high level of complexity to the repair process, including potential electrocution of the repairer.” Pritchard said the elevated risk of fire during electric vehicle collision repair means an EV cannot enter a spray booth so the panel beater must introduce processes specific to that type of vehicle to complete the repair.
Many new models entering the market have advancements in safety technology which allow the vehicle to proactively mitigate or avoid collisions, Pritchard said. “To accommodate this change, we are bringing in new international, service quality standards to the industry which will see repairers commit to ongoing training, equipment upgrades, annual inspections and audit processes before they can become a Licensed Collision Repairer in this market and are qualified for electric vehicle collision repair.” Modern vehicles are now made from high-strength steel, aluminium and other exotic materials which require special training and equipment for the repairer to replicate the factory join when replacing structural parts of the vehicle, Pritchard said. The introduction of new internationally-recognised I-CAR standards would reassure vehicle owners that their panel beater had undertaken training and audit processes to keep up with the latest technology, he said.
According to Ministry of Transport statistics, Manawatu/Whanganui has the ninth highest rate of EV and hybrid ownership in New Zealand with 189 registered throughout the region. Whanganui’s Larsen Collision Repairs co-owner Melissa Hogg said their business had seen a small increase in EVs, hybrids and advanced safety technology and had done all the training currently available to fully prepare for electric vehicle collision repair. The business is a CRA Licensed Repair Shop. “As we are in a provincial area we have to be equipped to handle the most complex of repairs,” Hogg said.
“I don’t think we will ever be in a position to pick and choose the small non-structural jobs like the new ‘Smart’ shops in the large centres that rely on massive volumes of work and don’t need to incur the costs of advanced training and equipment required for electric vehicle collision repair. “We have always stayed well ahead of any training requirements. We were the fourth shop in the country to achieve I-CAR Gold accreditation which is a whole shop training recognition. “We are audited annually and have to meet standards across the whole business, not just having the latest up-to-date equipment and training to achieve this. We are very active within the Collision Repair Association and they have helped us enormously over the years to stay well ahead of changes in the industry.”