The past image of bodyshops will soon be consigned to the history books because businesses have emerged from the shadows into a bright electric vehicle (EV) future.
This is the view of Graham O’Neill, the CEO of ACIS, the UK’s leading distributor to the accident repair market, who predicts 21st century bodyshops will replace traditional mechanical garages and servicing centres as the future of the internal combustion engine goes into reverse gear as the automotive industry weans itself off fossil fuels before 2035.
He believes bodyshops will become like vehicle ‘hospitals’ containing all the expertise the carry out ‘battery transplants’.
“Bodyshops are different places to what they used to be and the more professional ones are certainly ahead of the game when it comes to EV training on how to repair vehicles safely.
“We have put many of these bodyshop technicians through the ACIS EV and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) training programmes, as the demand is there.
“In the future there won’t be servicing of engines, simply the replacement of the batteries or the repair of electronic components. Currently, many dealerships are already outsourcing these services to manufacturer approved bodyshops because they don’t have the room or the ability to recalibrate the vehicle’s ADAS post repair.
“This outsourcing extends the process and the complexity and cost to drivers who are increasingly looking to reduce their key-to-key time so they can get back on the road as fast as possible. Today’s bodyshops have simply become more agile and customer-centric.”
He added that because EVs can contain circuits running at more than three times the 230 volts found in the domestic mains supply, it poses a real risk of electrocution and fire unless properly handled.
According to the IMI, which wants set up a licensing system for electric car mechanics to ensure they are properly trained, there are currently around 50,000 electric cars on the roads and only 1,000 people trained to fix them. Removing batteries – often protected within an ‘armoured’ casing to shield against vibration and impact – therefore takes time and specialist care.
ACIS also argues that hybrids are already presenting repair challenges.
“Switching off the petrol or diesel engine does not necessarily disengage the electric battery on a hybrid which could present dangers for uninitiated bodyshop technicians. Likewise, battery removal is imperative before the prime and painting process as they would not respond well to the high levels of heat generated from drying booths.
“With the demise of the internal combustion engine, it’s highly likely this level of expertise will only be found in one-stop bodyshops that are gearing up for a future with over-arching repair and replace strategies.”