New Zealand / Transport

Basic mechanic training needs to include electric vehicles, Motor Trade Association warns

18:41 pm on 7 March 2024

The Motor Trade Association says it sounded the alarm about a shortage of electric vehicle mechanics three years ago. Photo: 123RF

As the number of electric vehicles on New Zealand's roads continues to increase, EV drivers in need of repairs might have a hard time finding a mechanic qualified to fix them.

The country now has an EV fleet of around 73,000 - an increase of 166 percent since 2021 - and the Ministry of Transport expects that number could more than double by the end of the year.

So the industry is calling for electric vehicle repairs to become part of the standard mechanic training programme and fast.

One in every four new cars registered in New Zealand last year was either hybrid or fully electric, as motorists continued to turn away from gas guzzlers and increasingly EV owners are struggling to find someone qualified to fix theirs.

Most of the fleet is relatively new, and Motor Trade Association chief executive Lee Marshall said the issue would only get worse as it aged.

"We'll see more once those vehicles become second and third hand vehicles."

Marshall said they sounded the alarm about a shortage of EV mechanics years ago.

"We identified the need three years ago for something standalone required for electric vehicles, fast forward to today we're still some time away from that which has been incredibly frustrating."

Listen to Louise Ternouth's report here

If the industry was to keep up with changing technology, EV training needed to become part of a basic automotive apprenticeship, Marshall said.

"If you average out all of the global projections on where we're going with EVs, which you know changed through time, we're probably headed toward one in three newly registered vehicles will be electric by 2030.

"The need to know about this is not going to go away, it's only going to grow and it's going to grow very quickly."

Martin Grzelka is an electric vehicle training consultant who has been working with car dealerships around the country, teaching staff how to manage high voltage technology service and repair EVs.

Grzelka said it took around six months to teach a mechanic how to do this, depending on their existing skill set.

But he said there was a lack of information about who could work on an EV in New Zealand and the industry urgently needed to roll out a training programme with a focus on health and safety.

"So that every person in the workplace, whether you are trained on a high voltage vehicle or not, but you have an understanding of what it is and how to safely handle it, especially when it comes down to when electrocution happens, for example, or when there has been a fire.

"There are several safeguards in the vehicle that actually can prevent that from happening, however accidents happen."

Without proper training, customers could end up with costly repair bills.

"If someone is not well trained on the technology the technician doesn't really know what to look for and how to diagnose certain things as technology has changed, the misdiagnosis can be a costly thing."

About 90 percent of the country's mechanics are now trained at the Motor Industry Training Organisation, or METO, which in 2021 was merged into Te Pūkenga Lee Marshall said the organisation needs to place greater focus on EV repairs.

The organisation was hoping to meet with the Minister of Vocational Training Penny Simmons to discuss the issue.