The global shortage of technicians and independent repair shops qualified to fix electric vehicles (EVs) is becoming a growing concern that threatens to increase repair and warranty costs for drivers. This shortage poses a significant challenge, potentially hindering efforts to meet deadlines for reducing vehicle carbon emissions. From major cities like Milan, Melbourne, and Malibu, technician training organizations, warranty providers, and repairers are sounding the alarm about the vital role independent repair shops play in making EVs affordable, as they are more cost-effective compared to franchise dealers.
One of the major obstacles faced by independent repair shops is the substantial investment required for training and equipment to service high-voltage EVs. These vehicles are equipped with 400- and 800-volt systems, which can pose electrocution risks to untrained technicians. Additionally, the challenge of tackling EV fires, which are notoriously difficult to extinguish, adds to the concerns of repair shop owners like Roberto Petrilli in Milan. Petrilli is hesitant to invest €30,000 in equipment for EV repairs when EV sales in Italy are still low and the charging infrastructure is underdeveloped.
The shortage of skilled technicians in the auto repair industry has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations like the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) in Hertford, England, are rolling out EV training courses worldwide to address this shortfall. In the UK, where there is a ban on fossil-fuel car sales by 2030, the IMI predicts a shortfall of 25,000 EV technicians by 2032.
In the United States, EV sales have been growing steadily, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a need for approximately 80,000 electrician jobs annually through 2031, including technicians specializing in EV repair and charger installation. Australia is also facing a potential shortage, with the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce predicting a shortfall of 9,000 EV technicians by 2030.
The shortage of EV technicians is already impacting consumers, as data from UK used car warranty provider Warrantywise reveals rising costs for EV warranty coverage. CEO Lawrence Whittaker notes that expensive franchise dealers are often required for EV repairs due to their greater number of qualified technicians, potentially making EVs less affordable for consumers.
Mark Darvill, managing director at Hillclimb Garage in the UK, has embraced EVs and hybrid vehicles, recognizing their increasing prevalence in the market. However, he acknowledges that many independent repair shops are held back by a “fear of the unknown” when it comes to servicing EVs. While some technicians have received EV training, only a small percentage are qualified to handle more than routine maintenance.
Despite these challenges, carmakers like Tesla are taking steps to train technicians and offer EV training courses for independent repair shops. Still, concerns remain about unqualified technicians attempting to repair high-voltage EVs, posing potential safety risks.
Efforts are underway to address the shortage of trained EV technicians, such as the Siemens Foundation’s $30 million program to train technicians for EV charger installation and maintenance in the United States. However, funding and support are needed to ensure that smaller repair shops have access to affordable EV training, especially in regions where EV adoption is growing.