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The Road to Electrification

If you are planning to be in the automotive service industry long term, you must assume that change is inevitable.

by Ron Fisher, CEO QRP Canada, Owner Fisher Resolution

This issue, I will address “the road to electrification,” which a year or two ago seemed to have a reasonably clear path forward. While electric vehicles (EVs) now represent a significant portion of all the vehicles on the road, and charging stations are becoming a familiar sight, more and more pundits are suggesting that EVs are not the panacea they were thought to be. Numerous countries have labelled the internal combustion engine (ICE) a public enemy, and some have put dates on banning further ICE vehicle production in their countries.

Originally published in Collision Quarterly, Summer 2024

Some people even look at our loud, high-performance vehicles with disdain, and they view owners of such vehicles as environmental terrorists.

Like all change, perceived change is not necessarily how reality unfolds, and I think it is fair to say that the future of the EV may not be as certain as it once appeared. While I think they will have a significant place in the world of transportation, I doubt that EVs are necessarily the long-term game changer they are touted to be. As EVs have become more prevalent, a variety of issues have been raised, including the cost and disposal of end-of-
life batteries. In addition, while arguably greener than the ICEs, the manufacturing of the batteries used to operate these vehicles is, in my understanding, not without negative impacts on the environment.

As I write this article, I am on a ferry from Vancouver Island, one leg of the trip to my destination, Kamloops. In order to get there, I will consume one tank of gas in my car, and I will not have to stop unless I want to. If I were driving an EV, I would not have this choice, and I may be held hostage to charging station lineups along the way, which may affect my arrival time, whereas I can predict my arrival time to within 15 minutes in my trusty M2.

"What I am suggesting is that life for those in the automotive industry is not getting simpler but rather more complex.”

EVs are great in urban centers, but not all of us live or work in them. In B.C., many rural areas do not have charging centers, and if they do, they may not be easily accessible, available, or functioning, making rural distance travel with an EV perhaps even more of an adventure than expected.

Next, we come to the value of an EV once the battery has expired, which is similar to when an ICE is finished (but more so). On numerous occasions we have heard how an EV has become a total loss due to a dead battery, and that the replacement cost of the battery would exceed the value of the vehicle. Until this issue can be addressed, it should cause a person to pause and reflect before jumping into ownership for the long-term. It will be curious to see whether more people choose to lease EVs rather than purchasing them so as to shift the problem to the manufacturer. And if this is the case, what will car makers do in response?
Hydrogen technology is gaining more focus, with Honda announcing major plans in that direction. Given the company’s long history of leadership in the industry and its reputation as a benchmark, the fact that they are making such a significant investment in that alternative technology is noteworthy. I recently wrote an article about the declining dependence on the automobile globally, with more people looking at rail, subways, bicycles, and yes—even the human power of good old feet!

"Like all change, perceived change is not necessarily how reality unfolds, and I think it is fair to say that the future of the EV is not as certain as it once appeared.”

In North America, we maintain our obsession with vehicles the size of tiny homes where, in many parts of the world, the compact VW Golf has become the ideal size choice for many. What I am suggesting is that life for those in the automotive industry is not getting simpler but rather more complex. Not only do we have to acquire certification to work on certain brands of vehicles, but we are now going to need specialists for EVs, hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles, in addition to ICE vehicles.

Doctors, who work on the human body, can be general practitioners or specialists in specific areas of medicine. The auto repair industry may well end up with trade schools turning out both general practitioners and specialists as the market demands. So, what does this mean for you, the reader? Well, if you are planning on being in business or in the workforce for the extended future, you would be well advised to read the book Who Moved My Cheese and get busy planning to be as flexible as a yogi master.