Call for EV technicians to require electrician licence is based on ‘flawed logic’

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The Australian Electric Vehicle Council says requirement for four-year training course would lead to servicing bottlenecks

The body representing the electric vehicle industry in Australia has called on the government in Queensland to resist a regulation change that would require mechanics to hold a full electrician licence before working on an EV.

In a recent discussion paper, Queensland’s Electrical Safety Office (ESO) called for changes to the Electrical Safety Act 2002, most notably the requirement for a mechanic to complete a four-year electrician apprenticeship.

The paper lays out three possible options, namely:

  • Option 1 (status quo): Industry undertakes self-regulation on training requirements for work on electric vehicles.
  • Option 2 (legislative change): Capture work on electric motors within the definitions of ‘electrical equipment’ and ‘electrical work’, for the purposes of a licencing requirement.
  • Option 3 (awareness and education): Product an awareness and education campaign to address concerns regarding electric vehicle generally, including work.

The Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) has slammed option 2, labelling it a “significant overreach”, and claiming it would lead to a skill shortage in Queensland, creating a bottleneck for the servicing of EVs.

In a statement, the EVC said: “The current regulatory framework, supplemented by self-regulation and strong workplace safety measures, has effectively managed safety in EV maintenance to date.

”Imposing burdensome licencing requirements on mechanics should be approached with caution – if the existing regulatory arrangements are to be changed, a robust evidence-based, and consultative review process should be applied to identify any safety-related shortcomings in the existing arrangements.

“Lengthy apprenticeships or training programs for mechanics to obtain electrical licences could disrupt the industry, increase service costs, and limit the availability of skilled workers.”

Favouring option 1, the EVC added: “With over 300,000 HEVs (hybrids) on Australian roads and over 100,000 BEVs (electric vehicles) and PHEVs (plug-in hybrids), there has not been a single incident of electrocution in a workshop related to vehicle maintenance that we are aware of; this tends to indicate that the existing regulatory arrangements are adequate.

“The ‘exposure to risk’ highlighted in the cost/benefit analysis is exposure to a risk that has been around for decades and is already adequately managed.”

The UK industry view

While this story relates to Queensland, we sought the views of the UK industry.

Independent Garage Association

Frank Harvey, head of member services at the Independent Garage Association (IGA), told us he favoured the UK’s current self-regulatory approach.

He said: “We’ve got a robust system in place with electric/hybrid vehicle training Levels 3 and 4. Level 3 is about changing high voltage components but not working on live systems and battery packs, while Level 4 is a qualification that involves dismantling battery packs and repairing inverters, etc.

“Because of the risks involved, independent garages are seeing benefits from Levels 3 and 4 training, which ensure their technicians are competent and safe.”

Our Virtual Academy

Ben Stockton, founder of training provider, Our Virtual Academy, told us he agrees with the Electric Vehicle Council’s stance.

He said: “Technicians needing to complete a four-year training course designed for domestic and commercial electricians is an idea based on flawed logic.

“While four years of training may sound like a quality comprehensive solution, vehicles are not like buildings. Essentially, EVs are powered using batteries supplying Direct Current (DC) and buildings are powered using Alternating Current (AC).

”Many of us know that the DC from the battery is converted into a digitally created version of three-phase AC to drive the motor(s). However, the three-phase used to drive the motors is still very different to the three-phase electricity found in commercial buildings.

“Those yellow and green earth wires found in buildings aren’t a thing in EVs either, and neither are AC live (brown) and AC neutral (blue). Therefore, even if a technician were to attend a four-year course designed for electricians, very little of the knowledge taught would be transferrable, and pretty much none of it will help a technician fix a car.

”Just ask a domestic electrician about a EV with a fault, and you’ll soon discover they’ll agree with me on that point!

“What our technicians really need is a proper understanding of DC electrics, and at least a bit of knowledge about inverter created three-phase AC. Most importantly, they need to understand how electric vehicles work, how to stay safe through being competent and fully understanding the risks, and for the more advanced technicians, how to diagnose them.

”That doesn’t mean simplified one- or two- day courses riddled with summaries and flawed mantras; it needs to come from experienced and professional training providers.

“It’s no surprise that the EVC has found no evidence of technicians getting hurt through electrocution. EVs are designed to be safe, both for the occupants and for the technicians working on them.

“For me, the way technicians who are interested in taking on advanced jobs involving high voltage can stay safe is through proper quality meaningful training through attending quality short courses from quality training providers and not thinking all Levels 2, 3 and 4 courses, no matter the training provider, will all be the same.

”Technicians need to be taught the facts, not scare stories and spin. They need to know when they absolutely must wear the various types of PPE, and when it’s pointless and overly cumbersome to do so. They need to properly ‘get’ automotive electrics, understand how to do a meaningful dynamic risk assessment, and realise the importance of truly understanding exactly what they’re doing.“

Our Virtual Academy offers a range of training courses for hybrid and electric vehicles, from online packages to complete four-day Level 3 and Level 4 courses. Each training course is designed to upskill today’s technicians on what they really need to know.

Examples include EV Tech Roadshow and EV Masters Roadshow. Garage Wire readers can claim a 10 discount, so email info@ourvirtualacademy.com or telephone 020 3286 2228 for more information

Auto Torque has partnered with Garage Wire to bring you all the latest aftermarket news.

1 COMMENT

  1. If you have to do a 4 year electrical installation course certificate then you would be better becoming an electrician as better pay than mechanic can earn and 100% better working conditions.

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