Automotive

Published on June 10th, 2019 | by Subhash Nair

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How Electric Cars Might Mess with Mechanics

The automotive industry is at a major turning point. Many European countries and car companies have taken a ‘zero emissions’ stand and aim to move away from traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) within a decade or so.

Electric cars, though advanced and complex in their own way, are packaged in much fewer moving parts than traditional petrol or diesel engines. In fact, with mass production, an electric motor would be simpler and cheaper to replace than an engine would be to overhaul. Many electric vehicles also use energy recovery systems that reduce the wear on brake pads to almost nothing.

This is incorrect. Vast majority of vehicle motion is returned to the battery, as the electric motors act like a generator in reverse. Brake pads on a Tesla literally never need to be replaced for lifetime of the car.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 26, 2018

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla on Twitter

So, with nothing but tyres to replace every 3-5 years, batteries to rejuvenate every 6-10 years and the occasional warranty claim, what’s going to happen to the mechanics?

Many have said that mechanics will suffer when this wave of new technology hits. But this is assuming electric vehicles 100% displace traditional ICE vehicles.

There’s still a place for ICE

We don’t think this is the case. Just like when the smartphone displaced many traditional PC functions, what happened was most people ended up owning both a smartphone and a laptop/desktop. Perhaps the same will happen with electric vehicles. We know these are better at short distance commutes, but ICE vehicles, like desktops, have a greater circle of enthusiasts and better returns for big businesses. Logistics companies and ride hailing drivers, like server hosts, may rely on more traditional technologies.

That might mean the market for mechanics will shift in the direction it has been moving for some time.

  1. sole proprietors and bawah pokok mechanics being displaced by DIY-ers, small business mechanics who are willing to take jobs for less money, and hobbyists. Those who don’t have the capital to set up for themselves might end up being absorbed and retrained for franchise service outlets or service centres.
  2. small businesses moving towards more specialisation (learning to repair rather than replace expensive electric parts, servicing of older, more special cars cars, rebuilds, restorations, brand-specific repairs). While the volume of cars being serviced may go down, the margins might increase.
  3. more franchise service outlets popping-up and competing for big businesses that still rely on fleets of ICE vehicles and ride-hailing drivers. We’re already seeing this trend unfolding today.

But what do you think? Will electric vehicles wipe out the market for mechanics? We still don’t believe electric vehicles can make big waves in our region without government support.


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