To ensure that there will be trained automotive technicians to service HEV, PHEV, EREV, and BEV (e.g., Advanced Technology vehicles) Automotive Instructors play the pivotal role in developing these technicians. Prior to instructing any automotive topic, instructors should receive professional training and develop experiences that can be transferred to their students. With degrees already brimming with traditional automotive courses, instructors are finding it extremely difficult to determine how Advanced Technology vehicle information will be inserted into a structure that cannot accommodate additional courses. Additionally, college level administrators may not see a need to include the necessary courses to automotive degrees and certificates that properly prepare the students to analyze, diagnose, and repair vehicles with high voltage electric drive systems, battery packs, electric air conditioning compressors, etc. There are college administrators that have tried to solve this problem by offering adjunct 1-year certificate programs that permit students to continue with their automotive studies for a 3rd year. However, students quickly realize that, because the extra year of training in the Advanced Technologies is not a component of their 2-year degree program, they cannot acquire financial aid to help defray the educational costs until after graduation. Therefore, there are multiple issues in offering Advanced Technology vehicle training to the students, even if they desire it.
A more pressing issue involves automotive instructor training. If colleges aren’t supporting the addition of Advanced Technology education as a part of their automotive programs then, it may be difficult for automotive instructors to acquire support from their administration to attend qualified professional training. At FutureTech, our staff recognized this problem many years ago. The concern is real – with the production of Advanced Technology vehicles accelerating at exponential speed and instructors not receiving qualified training then, how will the next generation of technicians be trained to fundamentally learn the knowledge and skills necessary to diagnose and repair Advanced Technology products?
The answer is simple. FutureTech supports colleges and their automotive instructor staff that currently or plan to provide this training as part of a certificate or degree program. For those colleges that do not include or offer this training, private sector companies, such as FutureTech have already developed the training products, tools, and equipment for field technicians and can easily begin to integrate college level students into these Advanced Technology vehicle courses.
MIT Study Indicates Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) can Meet Most Drivers’ Needs While Lowering Emissions
An MIT Study by Professor Jessika Trancik cites that Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) can meet needs of most drivers. The study indicates that “current EVs could meet the needs of about 90 percent of drivers, at a total cost no greater than that of legacy ICE vehicles. EVs could also play a significant role in meeting emissions reduction goals. Furthermore, assuming battery technology improves at the expected rate, by 2020 up to 98 percent of vehicles could be replaced…..by a low-cost electric vehicle available on the market today, even if the cars can only charge overnight,…..which would more than meet near-term US climate targets for personal vehicle travel.” The study contends that overall, when accounting for emissions from today’s power plants, this would lead to a 30 percent reduction in emissions from transportation.
Although this study may seem aggressive in application, its findings may be closer to how BEVs could be deployed into the market at a faster rate than previously thought. With the advent of more Level 2 and Level 3 (Fast) Charging Station accessibility, Level 3 Charging Stations are capable of providing 80% battery charging in 20-30 minutes, that will provide significant vehicle range increases at (200 - 250 miles/charge +), making BEV acceptance a much simpler reality than in years past. And for those that need more range than 200 miles there are always the BEVs that have a range extender option or there are extended range electric vehicles (EREV), like the Chevrolet Volt, that offer no range limitations with on-board electrical generation.
As the electric drive vehicle technologies and their derivatives continue to evolve at an exceptionally fast pace, these vehicles have now become part of the main stream market. FutureTech expects to see a rapid adoption of BEV and other Plug-In vehicle technologies to move to the market forefront, very soon.
Automotive service businesses may be missing out on how the can market their services to a new generation of vehicle owners. The new generation of Plug-In Hybrid, Extended Range Electric, and Battery Electric (Advanced Technology) vehicle owners are very “tech savvy” and are constantly scanning their local area for businesses that can maintain, analyze, diagnose, and repair their Advanced Technology vehicle. Acquiring their business may be very simple and does not require more than a few minutes of your time with them. By adding a plug-in Charging Station, you can easily begin to market your business as “friendly” to these Advanced Technology vehicle owners. The marketing is very simple: Most plug-in vehicle owners want to know where they can plug-in to charge their vehicle. In fact, many owners use smart phone apps such as Charge Point to determine where the nearest charging station is located to receive a quick charge. And, it would be very simple to add your business to the many smart phone apps that are available to vehicle owners. If your business is already diagnosing and repairing Advanced Technology products then, this would be a simple and inexpensive strategy to market your business as a location for not only vehicle charging but, also vehicle repair. Level 2 charging stations can be purchased for less than $750.00 and only need a dedicated 220V electrical circuit with 20 – 40 Amp capability.
You may want to think about adding a charging station to your business. It’s an inexpensive method for exposing your service business to Advanced Technology vehicle owners globally. It’s also a method to acquire traditional service business from a customer. Remember, most customers believe that, if a business can maintain and repair their Advanced Technology vehicle, certainly they can repair a traditional vehicle with “old” technology.
How many customers could your charge station attract in your business' service area? FutureTech can develop a report that is unique to your business, showing how many Hybrid, EREV, Plug-In Hybrid, and Electric Vehicles are close to you.
The Advantages of Advanced Vehicle Technology Early Adoption
As an Advanced Electric Drive Vehicle Technologies (i.e., Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid, Extended Range Electric, and Battery Electric vehicle) solutions provider, FutureTech is often asked by prospective clients about the wisdom of adding Advanced Technology vehicles to their service program portfolio. The Aftermarket, in particular, has asked this question with increased frequency during the past 2-3 years. This initial question often compels a deeper question of when they should add Advanced Technology service programs to their business model. It’s obvious that electric drive vehicle technology and its derivatives are quickly becoming essential to most automotive OEM vehicle platforms. The fuel economy and emission requirements for the OEMs have driven them to use the electric drive powertrains with efficiencies that are considerably higher than traditional vehicle powertrains. With fuel economy requirements elevating quickly each year, and the 2025 mandate of 54.5 mpg looming in the background, OEMs are not waiting until the last minute to try meeting these elevating fuel economy requirements. Additionally, Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Credits and Multiplier ratios from the federal government are decreasing as the fuel economy requirements increase. This means that more electric propulsion vehicles will be required to meet the compliances.
The OEMs such as Honda and Toyota began to enter the market and offer hybrid vehicles for sale in model years 2000 and 2001, respectively. From 2000 – 2013, there were approximately 2 million Advanced Technology vehicles sold in the US Market. From Q2 2013 thru Q1 2016 there are more than 4 million in the US market. Therefore, it had taken only 3 years to double the number of Advanced Technology vehicles in the US market from 2 million to 4 million units. These significant exponential sales numbers cannot be ignored. This is a volume that the Aftermarket, Fleets, and other related industries should consider when examining their business model for possible changes toward profitability. The addition of Advanced Technology products and the rate of change in the adoption of these technologies follow a model developed by Everett Rogers in the early 1960’s. Roger’s Model can be used (generally) to project how technologies will be adopted and the rate of change to the adoption. Specifically, the Rogers Model provides a blueprint for how business opportunities intersect with profitability. When considering this model, it can be seen that the majority of profitability occurs in the Early Adopter and at the beginning of the Early Majority phases.
When comparing Advanced Technology vehicle deployment from 2000 – 2016 to the Rogers’ Model, it is FutureTech’s opinion that the Aftermarket is in the early stages of the Early Adopter phase. The doubling of the Advanced Technology products from 2013 – 2016 was (in our opinion) the initiation of the Early Adopter phase. Specifically, the Early Adopter stage offers the highest Profit Opportunity. There are many business investors that acquired significant profit from companies such as Amazon, Apple, Dell, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, etc. when these companies were in the Early Adopter stage. Unlike investment stocks, investing to service the Advanced Technology vehicles isn’t much of a risk because, the automotive industry has already made their commitment to move in this direction. Therefore, since the market has already moved into this direction there is only one question for you: Are you ready to enter the Early Adopter phase and profit from the era of Advanced Technology vehicles?
Advanced Technology electric drive systems will force disruptive technologies into the service space and these changes will be significant. The OEMs will continue to escalate the utilization of electric drive systems well into the future, coupled with technologies such as Autonomous vehicles. If you are a business owner in the automotive service space, you should consider entering the Advanced Technology service market now to enjoy the full benefits of profitability, and be known in the industry as a pioneering market leader – and FutureTech, as an experienced technology and innovation company with scalable solutions that are available NOW, is ready to work with you to make a smooth transition.
Find out how many Hybrid & Electric Vehicles are in your business' service area, and find out how many customers you - as an early adopter - could be serving now.
NiMH Battery Conditioning: A Very Misunderstood Topic in the Aftermarket Service Market - And It’s Time to Change It
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) technology has been used in the automotive electric propulsion market since the early-1990’s, starting with Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) applications (ex: GM EV1). It was a welcomed replacement to the Advanced Lead Acid battery technology with offering an Energy Density that was double that of the lead acid technology. As NiMH continued to mature it was utilized in the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) market for products such as the GM Tahoe/Yukon, Honda Civic, Ford Escape, Lexus RX400h, and Toyota Prius – to name a few. Therefore, as the NiMH products increased in volume, there was a natural interest in high voltage battery pack rebuilding or remanufacturing in the Aftermarket as the vehicles were exiting the warranty period. This led to hobbyists, “weekend warriors” and, do-it-yourselfer technicians rushing into the market to stake their claim for a profitable business venture in the rebuilding of HEV battery packs.
However, as many of the hobbyists and others eventually learned, there is more to rebuilding battery packs than meets the eye. There is significantly more to rebuilding these packs than reading an article, blog, or other posting on the internet on how to “condition” battery modules. Most individuals are unaware that there is much more to analyzing, diagnosing, and rebuilding a NiMH battery pack than conditioning or what some refer to as reconditioning. Professionals must consider Screening and where the vehicle has spent its service life. The experiences of our company engineers at FutureTech is that most hobbyists and other individuals simply do not have the training, equipment, or experience to properly screen, condition, and rebuild a battery pack. Field quantitative and qualitative data support this these assertions. So, let’s take a look at some of the areas that expand past the mere conditioning of NiMH modules.
Conditioning is another word for “cycling” the battery pack. Cycling is defined as discharging the battery pack/modules to 0% State-of-Charge (SOC) and charging the pack to 100% SOC. Cycling the NiMH modules will increase the capacity of healthy modules and provide data so battery pack capacity can be increased and balanced.
Screening battery modules requires appropriate equipment, and professionally trained technicians using the equipment to acquire battery energy, power data and, discharge (curve) signatures that permits a trained technician to review all testing data and review the performance of a battery module or cell. Screening is a component of the conditioning process and serves as the essential diagnostic point of the entire rebuilding process. Screening is one of the most crucial steps in determining what treatment a battery will need while being rebuilt, whether only conditioning is necessary or if module/cell replacement is necessary.
Battery packs (modules or cells) require both Power and Energy (capacity) testing to ensure optimal performance. Power and Energy are not the same values/quantities. Most hobbyists, do-it-yourselfers, and others typically do not understand this difference. Energy is “how much” energy can be stored (capacity) by a module or cell. Power is the rate in which the energy can be delivered. As an analogy, if a battery module is a 55 gallon drum that stores water then, the amount of water it can store/hold is Energy (capacity). Power is how fast (rate) that the water can be removed from the drum. Therefore, both quantities must be tested because, one of the quantities may be functioning properly while the other is not. Battery modules can be Energy limited but, not Power limited – and vice-versa. Both must be tested.
Vehicle Service Life
One of the areas that FutureTech engineers have tracked for over a decade is how the geographical area, terrain, drive cycle, and calendar aging variables effect how a battery pack will perform. Based on where a vehicle is located geographically provides a strongly correlated indicator for determining battery pack longevity and performance. Ditto for the terrain, how the vehicle is used (drive cycle), and the age of the battery pack. Each variable has a weighted value when analyzing the Power and Energy test data. When FutureTech trains battery technicians, we use all of these variables to assist the technician in how to interpret battery testing data and arrive at the correct diagnosis and action plan before rebuilding the battery pack.
So, What Does This All Mean?
If your business plans to rebuild NiMH battery packs, it is imperative that you properly vet your equipment and training supplier before taking the plunge. In FutureTech’s experience, seldom do suppliers within the automotive Aftermarket make it through the vetting process. The supplier should have at a minimum vehicle manufacturer experience in the areas of electric propulsion, and high voltage battery pack systems in particular. If you plan to purchase battery packs from a supplier that rebuilds, it is essential that you properly vet them to learn about their capabilities in testing and rebuilding battery packs before you make any commitments.
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