Maintenance shops face new challenges with electric vehicles

March 7, 2018
Electric trucks could offer fleets financial savings, but also new headaches for maintenance shops.

ATLANTA. Electric trucks and other alternative-powered vehicles could offer fleets greater opportunities to save on fuel and cut emissions.

However, these new vehicles may also create fresh challenges for technicians and maintenance professionals.

“Electricity is different than what is in your shop,” said Tom Dollmeyer, director of electrification technology at Cummins Inc. He spoke at a panel discussion at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual meeting.

Electricity requires an additional level of training to ensure safety, as well as alterations to maintenance shops in many cases. He pointed out parking locations and electricity connections in shops are often not aligned, creating a “real estate” problem.

Dollmeyer also stressed different types of charging stations for electric connections are creating additional headaches.

Duane Lippincott, corporate automotive senior project manager with UPS Inc., said even simple vehicles such as bicycles could present new hurdles.

Lippincott noted that traditional bikes and electric bikes are a small part of the more than 9,000 vehicles in the company’s rolling laboratory of alternative vehicles.

While they are proving useful in early-morning urban deliveries around the world, maintenance shops need to decide whether they stock bicycle parts, or outsource these needs to a local bike shop. 

He urged fleets to “remove the barrier of fear” when it comes to considering emerging technologies, and to consider new ways of thinking when it comes to technicians. By focusing on skill levels – entry level, heavier work and technology-focused – it could help shops better adapt as changes are needed.

Mike Hasinec, vice president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing, said fleets need assistance from several groups in order for electric and other alternative vehicles to develop beyond a niche market.

For example, he said equipment manufacturers have to find ways to lower costs and to provide additional technical support in order to minimize risks. He also called on the government to develop consistent regulations, and to offer long-term financial support for fuels and charging stations to remove some of the burden on fleets willing to be early adopters.

Nick Tempelhoff of Mercedes-Benz Vans noted that regulations that might mandate electric vehicles for deliveries in cities could prove problematic. A key reason is that battery power may not be powerful enough to allow these vehicles to travel from warehouses located outside the city to their final destinations.

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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