Here's the scenario: A customer informs you they will be purchasing a car with Vehicle Electrification (VE). The VE products would include Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV), Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV). What should they be looking out for?
Whether it be new or used, there are some things that customers may need to know prior to making the purchase. Although there is a litany of technical topics that you could cover with the customer, you have decided to narrow the discussion to a broader list to ensure that they understand the range of VE product ownership considerations.
1. Insurance costs – could be higher cost due to new technology.
Insurance costs for VE products may be higher than that of a traditional vehicle depending on your location as well as cost of vehicle. This can be due to placement of expensive high voltage components in the probable crash zones of the vehicle. Even if the components are not placed in highly probable crash zones, the cost of electric propulsion components can be very high and the insurance companies may react accordingly with the insurance premiums.
2. Vehicle Residual Value – may not be known until after a vehicle has been released into field for many months or years. Customers need to become more familiar with the particular cost of ownership, relative to specific vehicles – based on the vehicle history. This information is readily accessible on several reputable website sources to help a prospective client/customer determine the historical value and quality of a VE product. Check out this and this, for starters .
Residual Value can be determined by how the manufacturer treats service parts, component reliability (high infant mortality through mid-life and low reliability), and adjustments to provide a “special policy” to parts or systems. Vehicle campaigns (i.e., recalls) due to safety, quality, etc. can significantly affect the residual value. Manufacturers can opt to extend Warranty coverage for components or systems but, it is not a requirement. Your customer should know that higher cost of ownership accompanies any new (major) technology advancements which will have minimal longitudinal field data to normalize the ownership cost.
3. Out of Warranty Component Replacement Cost – The cost of VE product high voltage components can very expensive (e.g., $800.00 – $8,000.00) depending on the component.
The typical Warranty for VE powertrain and energy storage systems (i.e., high voltage battery packs) is 8 years/100,000 miles. Some manufacturers have enhanced their warranty to 10 years/150,000 miles. So, if your customer is contemplating purchasing a preowned vehicle (that is out-of-warranty or very close to it), they should be aware of component part replacement cost and the associated diagnostic/repair labor costs. A service shop that is trained and equipped to diagnose and service VE systems can significantly assist the vehicle owner in minimizing the cost of ownership by providing lower cost service solutions to the owner.
4. Expectations of What a VE Product Is and Isn’t – VE products are designed to provide highly efficient operation at low, mid, and high torque and speed operation, and may or may not, provide great performance (i.e., speed, quickness, etc.) depending on vehicle type and geographic location.
For example, an HEV electric traction system provides minimal propulsion input while an engine may be providing most of the traction torque at high vehicle speeds. This would result in less vehicle performance when compared to other VE products such as, PHEV, EREV, and BEV products that use electric traction as the predominant system. Therefore, if the commute of your customer is predominantly city or suburban driving then, a VE product would provide a very efficient and fuel saving option, especially products that use electric only propulsion for most of the typical daily drive cycle.
5. Diagnostics may cost more if problems occur (especially when warranty has expired) – For an HEV product this is due to having two propulsion systems residing on one vehicle.
An HEV product contains the traditional internal combustion engine, fuel, ignition systems, etc. It also contains a complete electric propulsion system that can operate in tandem or separately from the engine. Therefore, the cost of diagnosing propulsion related problems can be extensive due to the time investment to analyze both propulsion systems. Although vehicle on-board diagnostics can assist with analyzing each system, the data may only lead to more questions and not answers because of the systems complexities.
However, if the customer is utilizing a service shop that has been trained in how to diagnose and repair VE products, this can significantly reduce the cost of repairs. Owners of VE products need to understand that, as of today few service businesses are trained and equipped to service these VE products, and the customer will need to identify qualified shops that can support their vehicle.
You can be a qualified repair professional that serves the unique needs of VE customers. FutureTech's NxtGen solutions provide a wide array of options for equipping, training, and supporting automotive service professionals who wish to serve the VE market. If you're unsure of the size of your unique market, we can provide you with a free report showing the number of vehicles in a specific area.
Small start-up companies whether software applications, cutting edge consumer products or, home improvement products have traditionally driven their respective technology spaces to innovate. It also forces the larger stodgy companies to take notice and innovate to meet the challenges created by the nimbler small businesses that can enter the market quickly with their products and services.
The Lucid Air Electric Luxury Sedan
Over the past 10 years’ Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) start-up companies have made their presence known and driving a market thought to be all but dead to the consumer. With companies such as BYD, Faraday Future, Lucid, Tesla and many others constantly pushing the envelope this forces the larger corporate conglomerates to innovate and provide a more competitive landscape in the BEV market. Not only do these small companies drive vehicle innovation but, this type of environment also provides seed for ancillary companies to start-up and experience growth while establishing market presence as well as brand equity quickly. Some of these markets include high power vehicle battery chargers, solar power based charging, battery based home power systems, etc.
It's the small business engine that drives innovation and economic growth which, forcing the automotive manufacturing titans to innovate and change. Small business often times will lead the way.
With the advent of Vehicle Electrification, will Pattern Failure Diagnostics in the Field Becoming Obsolete?
As the era of Vehicle Electrification continues to quickly change the landscape of automotive vehicle systems, the impact of these changes will very likely cause a disruptive transformation in how aftermarket (and possibly some OEM) automotive technicians execute diagnostic processes. For example, traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) systems have experienced gradual changes and have significantly matured slowly over the past 100 years. With a long time horizon, technicians have had the opportunity to slowly “grow” with these changes and OEM product lines.
Conversely, Vehicle Electrification is on the cusp of significant growth, with stringent regulatory and compliance metrics driving innovations. Growth of emerging technologies fuels innovation, the innovation results in change, and change is a polar opposite to the experiences of (current) mature products. The automotive industry is in a unprecedented tsunami of innovations driven by vehicle electrification – specifically in electric powertrains, battery packs, and on/off-board charging systems – to name a few. Whether it is the Chevrolet Volt that is in it’s 4th generation of battery pack or Tesla announcing that it will innovate in 12-18 month cycles, it could result in an intimidating time in history for technicians, and the business of diagnostics and repair. However, I believe that rather than be intimidated, we should look at the glass is half-full. This period of innovation offers significant opportunity for those willing to learn it. Examples of Vehicle Electrification changes can be seen here and here.
As innovations continue to quickly evolve, most do not follow commonality in format, technology, or (in some cases) technical function. To compound the problem, technicians and enginees cannot rely on legacy knowledge or technology transfer to help them bridge the gap. With technology applications changing so quickly, it does not provide an opportunity for products to mature in creating an environment for pattern failure diagnostics to become commonplace. Therefore, technicians and engineers will need to learn a new knowledge and skills and rely less on pattern failure diagnostics or prior experiences to help navigate the new technological waters. Technicians (and engineers to some extent) will need to know what questions to ask when problem solving, rather than relying on knowing that every 2008 vehicle that is painted blue will need a new set of injectors every 25,000 miles (pattern failure). By understanding the fundamentals of systems hardware, firmware, software, systems integration, and the associated functionality of these systems – a technician or engineer is formidably armed to solve a problem.
Also, those that are engaged in diagnostics, especially in Vehicle Electrification systems, should know how they learn so they can more effectively learn new information and skills. Most of my colleagues over the years really didn’t know how they learned – they struggled silently. Knowing how you learn is an invaluable tool in dealing with the quick cycles of technology change and the application of fundamentals. An excellent article on the topic can be found here.
The first step in tackling the world of Vehicle Electrification is acquiring high-quality training (and education if possible) to equip your mental tool box, for enabling the ability to problem solve – even if the OEM provides information and special tools (which are sometimes inadequate for helping someone solve a problem). However, application of information and tools is dependent on the individual applying it. History is littered with the accounts of those that did not tool themselves for significant iterative changes and relied on training and skills that had little application in solving future problems. Well, the future is here, today. Actually, the future has been here since about 2001. Without the training or education, it’s like traveling without a map or compass.
There is an old axiom that has served me well over my career that may help those that are starting their career with Vehicle Electrification: Success is when opportunity meets preparedness.
Are you prepared?
The requirements for charging longer range Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) has consistently escalated the need for higher power DC Fast Charging (DCFC) systems. It wasn’t that long ago that 50kW charging was making its mark in the BEV charging space. However, as Tesla (and others) have been making consistent inroads in the BEV market, the focus for higher power systems has pushed the DCFC power boundaries much further and faster than expected. With companies such as, EVgo with a 350kW DCFC system or ChargePoint at 400kW DCFC systems, air conditioning systems will transition from a stand-alone cabin cooling system to a highly-integrated powertrain system cooling role to include removing battery pack cell/module heat that is generated during normal vehicle operation or during battery charging. This now places significant performance requirements on the air conditioning system and heightens the need for air conditioning systems to be at optimal performance at all times…….even during the winter months.
Vehicle service businesses that include air conditioning service as part of their services menu will need to consider the air conditioning system as one of the reasons for vehicle reduced performance, range reduction, etc. It’s time to welcome vehicle air conditioning systems into its new role of powertrain thermal management.
With significant regulatory and compliance changes on the horizon that, will require automotive OEMs to increase fuel economy, while ZEV credits and multipliers diminish, you would think that the OEMs would push the marketing hot button for their Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV). However, studies conducted by Global Equities Research combined with data CompetiTrack and Motor Intelligence point to the lethargic marketing prowess of the OEMs with respect to PHEV and EV products.
Traditional vehicle purchasing may experience some significant changes during the next several years and throughout this next decade. In fact, major automotive OEMs are betting on it. As companies like Uber and Zip Car (ride sharing and vehicle sharing) services continually resonate with younger generations and environmentally conscience consumers, the landscape of vehicle ownership will also change. In lieu of an individual investing in the purchasing of a vehicle that may only be utilized a small percentage of the time, many prospective buyers are now turning toward ride and vehicle sharing and only pay for “when” the vehicle is used. Automotive OEMs have heard this message loud and clear. Obviously, if this type of trend continues, the OEM sales numbers could decrease and shift from primarily private ownership to a significant volume of corporate ownership. This is one reason why the OEMs are partnering with Autonomous vehicle systems suppliers to “hedge their bet” in the event that the ride and vehicle sharing trend growth continues to grow and expand at rates that increase the relevance to the transportation market.
GM has recently announced a partnership with Lyft to begin navigating the waters of Uber and Zip. The $500M GM investment in Lyft indicates that the automotive OEM is serious about expanding into the rental vehicle market but, more importantly, it indicates GM’s interest in moving deeply into the Autonomous vehicle space. Most companies that have considered or that are currently in the Autonomous vehicle space have targeted the use of battery electric vehicles as the primary platform, such as the GM Bolt. Lyft and GM believe that the Express Drive program will assist both companies implement technology infrastructure for fleets of self-driving in the future. However, the immediate focus of the Lyft Express Drive program is place more Lyft vehicles into service.
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.
Innovating Vehicle Electrification Support to the Automotive Aftermarket.