E cars pose powerful problems for mechanics

In today’s Sacramento Bee, auto writer Mark Glover covers the challenges that conventional auto mechanics face as new electric vehicles start showing up in their garages.

Those electric vehicles popping up in driveways all over California look a lot like their gas-powered cousins. But under the hood, they’re different machines, and their potential problems are foreign to many drivers and mechanics alike.

In California, the nation’s No. 1 market for sales of hybrids and EVs, the stakes are potentially huge.Jesse Toprak, an analyst for the Santa Monica-based TrueCar.com, noted California’s “sheer numbers” of people, along with its “concentration of early adopters in terms of technology and environmentally friendly purchasers.”

A report released last week by San Francisco-based nonprofit Next 10 said California attracted global investments totaling $467 million in electric vehicle-related sectors in the first half of this year. In all of 2010, investments totaled $840 million.

From 1995 to 2010, Next 10 said, electric vehicle industry jobs in California went from 740 to 1,800. That growth is expected to continue. Next 10’s study showed California and Michigan in a tie for EV technology patents, both generating 300 from 2008-10.

The report flatly states: “California is leading the nation in the growing electric vehicle industry.”

The story goes on to say that mechanics are facing an educational challenge in learning how to work on the new e-car technology.

Rising EV numbers have created challenges in the vehicle repair/service industry.

“It’s a huge challenge,” said Doug Brauner, the “Car Czar” TV/radio host who’s also a certified mechanic and runs auto shops in Sacramento and Citrus Heights. “We’re just now after all of these years seeing an acceptable number of techs that have the appropriate amount of hybrid training.”

When it comes to fully electric vehicles, he said, “I have yet to see anybody in this marketplace who has received appropriate and reasonable training.”

Brauner said the auto service industry was “slow to react to hybrid training. I hope our industry is a little more proactive” with EVs.

Read more: Sacramento Bee


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