Breaking Down In Electric Vehicles: What You Need To Know
The sales figures for electric vehicles are at an all time high in the UK. But what happens when they break down and what should fleets bear in mind?
New Vehicles, New Problems
Most drivers will, at some point in their lives, breakdown. It’s never a pleasant experience and can be caused by all sorts of technical problems. Electric vehicles, like their ICE equivalents, aren’t immune to breaking down; but when they do, a different approach is usually required. It’s so different, in fact, that breakdown recovery companies are having to invest substantial sums in training and equipment for their response units. According to early evidence, electric motors are largely reliable; but the parts centred around them are prone to failure. Gear levers can refuse to move, plug flaps get jammed and cables sometimes refuse to connect or disconnect. Naturally, they can face the same problems as diesels and petrols, too; including punctured tyres and flat batteries.
Koen Snoeys, B2B manager at VAB (a Belgian roadside recovery company), stressed the confusion caused by batteries alone. He said, “We have to support two types of battery problems, one with the big traction battery. The other with the 12-volt battery you would find in an internal combustion engine. If the 12-volt battery is flat or broken it’s impossible to start the vehicle, even if the big battery unit is fully charged”. He added, “we see a lot of people who do not really know if they have turned off their car or just stopped, because the motor makes no noise. Sometimes the 12-volt battery is still working”.
…And New Dangers
Carrying out repair work and maintenance on electric vehicles naturally poses the risk of electrocution; they have much more powerful voltages coursing through them than their ICE equivalents. As a result, technicians need to undergo thorough safety training in how to isolate battery units; no small feat, given that this can vary between models and manufacturers. There are also unique challenges with towing. Most contemporary EVs are both automatics and four-wheels drives. For example the Nissan Leaf’s manual advises, “never tow with the front wheels on the ground or four wheels on the ground (forward or backward), as this may cause serious and expensive damage to the motor”. Instead, it suggests placing the vehicle on a truck’s flatbed.
There are also charging considerations. Some response companies, like the RAC, have installed some of their patrol vehicles with charging capabilities; this allows them to charge stranded vehicles; at least sufficiently to get to safety. But this is time-consuming, so most instead elect to transport the vehicle to proper charging infrastructure. This reduces downtime, gets stranded motorists away from speeding vehicles and allows response patrols to operate elsewhere. That said, VAB hasn’t responded to many flat batteries; perhaps because many EV drivers are knowledgeable early-adopters.
Fleets Responsible For Two-Thirds Of All EV Orders – https://www.autoservefleet.co.uk/latest-news/fleets-responsible-for-two-thirds-of-all-ev-orders/
Europe’s Electric Car Targets Are ‘Far Removed From Today’s Reality’ – https://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/europes-electric-car-targets-are-far-removed-from-todays-reality/