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‘Scared’ Auto Mechanics, Tow Operators Need Training to Work with Electric Vehicles

A shortage of mechanics who are comfortable working on electric vehicles is the latest training challenge Canada will run into in the shift off fossil fuels.

“Electric cars are coming fast and we need to be prepared,” but “the automotive industry, in my mind, is not prepared for it,” Maple Ridge, B.C. mechanic and trainer Klaus Uebelacker told Castanet. “Everybody is scared. Seriously, everybody is scared. They don’t understand the system.”

Uebelacker “believes there are few trained professionals currently in the business who can confidently open the hood of an EV and know what they’re getting themselves into,” the Kelowna, B.C. news site adds. “That’s a problem in Canada in 2020, he says—one that’s only going to get worse if it isn’t addressed soon.”

Uebelacker was a Mercedes-Benz mechanic for more than two decades, and now trains roadside assistance staff for the B.C. Automobile Association and teaches in the automotive program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Out of personal interest, he enrolled in an EV maintenance program funded under CleanBC, the provincial climate plan.

That course was “the only place where they actually touch electric cars and do training on them,” he said. “You take the parts out, you actually look inside, they show you how to activate it, how to take the battery out. You actually take a complete battery apart, physically look at it, and say, ‘Oh, that’s what happens.’”

Castanet points to the Green Budget Coalition’s recommendation for a C$10-million technician training program for zero-emission vehicles, something Uebelacker calls a “no-brainer” that he would “absolutely recommend”. With the transition to EVs accelerating, “I think in every apprenticeship, that should be almost mandatory,” he said. “Coming out of the automotive industry, and being an instructor in a university, I really recommend it”—not only for mechanics, but for roadside assistance staff with organizations like BCAA.

“It is important that tow operators understand how EVs work, so they can handle them without getting shocked or electrocuted by the car’s high-voltage system,” Castanet writes. “The procedure to check an EV’s components is completely different from that of a gas-powered vehicle.”