As the industry transitions towards a greener future, the adoption of electric vehicles has been gaining momentum. With this shift comes the need for an industry-wide approach to ensure the safe and efficient servicing of battery-electric vehicles. To meet this demand, OEMs and service providers are incorporating best practices into their electrification-centric training programs.
The training emphasizes the importance of managing high-voltage systems with caution and also stresses the need for timely software updates and meticulously covering standard maintenance procedures. By implementing this comprehensive approach to battery-electric servicing, the industry is ensuring that electric vehicles can be maintained in a safe and efficient manner, ultimately contributing to the continued growth and success of the EV market.
Aside from the ultimate sustainability benefit of moving goods with zero-emissions trucks, like the Class 8 battery electric vehicles rolling out from Daimler Truck North America (DTNA), Kenworth, Mack Trucks, Navistar, Peterbilt, and Volvo Trucks, the EV total cost of ownership promise comes from the theoretical maintenance savings since the engine and aftertreatment system is replaced with battery packs and electric motors.
“With less moving parts, we feel customers will see great savings in maintenance costs throughout their fleet,” said Kyle Maki, director of zero emissions vehicle deployment and customer experience at Navistar.
Good news for sure, especially in the early days of Class 8 battery electric trucks, but this does not imply that maintenance can be ignored or pushed aside. Just like any ICE vehicle, it is still crucial to prioritize preventative maintenance. Regular service appointments not only keep your electric vehicle functioning optimally, but also help to prolong its lifespan. Though the maintenance requirements may be less extensive compared to traditional ICE vehicles, ignoring preventative services can lead to unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs; a tale as old as time.
Navistar, for instance, has established a maintenance schedule for its electric vehicles, which entails flushing the coolant every five years and replacing the air compressor filter annually. Additionally, the company trains its operators to conduct daily visual inspections, searching for any signs of leaks or damage to high-voltage cables.
As the shift towards electric mobility progresses, OEMs are working diligently to anticipate and overcome any potential challenges that may arise in order to successfully close the gap between traditional internal combustion engines and electrical systems.
“With the transition to electric vehicles, the one area that is overlooked is the new need to maintain our EV charging stations,” Maki said. “Technicians of the future are going to need to be able to feel comfortable working with these charging stations as well.”
According to Dan Larson, Autel Energy’s product and solution manager, preventative maintenance typically consists of interval-based air filter changes, but the most important thing is ensuring that the charger firmware stays current. This refers to the background programming that helps the charger do what it’s meant to do: charge the vehicle.
“Automotive OEMs are constantly changing their communication protocols which oftentimes affects how the vehicle interfaces with the charger. Autel releases updated firmware to all chargers an average of once per month to ensure our chargers will work on every vehicle that plugs in,” Larson said.
Charging into tire care
To keep things rolling smoothly on the matter of electric vehicle servicing, it’s important not to gloss over the significance of proper EV tire maintenance. This is especially true since its relevance can easily become obscured by the other, more popular conversations surrounding aspects of electrification, like battery life, range and servicing approach. Electric vehicle owners should prioritize tire maintenance alongside other critical operational needs to keep their vehicles running smoothly and efficiently.
“Tires are a vital piece of equipment for electric vehicles and could perhaps become a higher priority for maintenance, as EVs often feature less ‘traditional’ maintenance than internal combustion engine vehicles due to fewer moving parts, less fluids, etc.,” said Robert Hamby, director of commercial product strategy at Bridgestone Americas.
“Either way, monitoring the health of a vehicle’s tires is critically important because tires directly impact the overall safety and efficiency at which the vehicle operates. It seems obvious, but we sometimes forget that tires are the only part of a vehicle that touches the ground.”
While tires on electric fleets are serviced much the same way as other tires, it’s important to note that all precautions carried out for any electrical system should be carried out, even if you’re only working on the vehicle’s tires.
It’s additionally worth noting that tires for electric fleets can exhibit different wear and replacement cycles, ones typically not found in its diesel-fueled predecessor. Due to vehicle configuration, suspension and weight differences, certain aspects of EVs can have an impact on a tires performance. According to Hamby, a great example of this would be the near-instant torque EVs are known to produce. While a great benefit for speed’s sake, it can produce accelerated tread wear on tires.
While there are some distinct differences that set apart EV-specialty tires, one thing remains true: Whether it’s an EV or ICE, the success of overall operations is largely dependent on having fully maintained tires in order for the vehicle to perform its function.