The wrench will still have a role to play, but the tool belt for today's auto mechanics is about to expand exponentially. Standard exterior repairs will still be necessary, and cars will still have many of the same basic parts such as tires, wheels and exterior metals. But the vehicles of the future won't stand out because of their steel. The auto industry's priorities are shifting to include the latest in software technology and sustainability best practices.
This shift can be viewed in two ways: There is a shortage of qualified mechanics to work on electric and autonomous vehicles, but this shortage will create a massive opportunity for new skills to be learned and new roles to be formed. We know cars of the future will need specialized designers and manufacturers to produce them — with EV batteries, electric charging capabilities and digital technologies such as 5G connectivity and visual recognition sensors. This creates a need for the right mechanics in place to fix, inspect and upgrade the vehicles.
Could your electrician be your EV mechanic? I wouldn't go that far. But there will be unique skills that service centers will seek when looking for qualified candidates. When you meet the mechanics of the future, here are three things you'll likely find on their resumes.
1. Specialized training: Certain schools are proactively training their students for a world of AVs, and the same will be required for EVs — as research shows more than 95 percent of engine mechanics don't have any EV training. Analyzing EV batteries through diagnostic tests and health checks will be different from the inspections done on a standard car battery or engine. Through EV maintenance training programs, mechanics can get an accurate assessment of what it's like to pop the hood and gain an understanding of how EVs function. There are many added considerations mechanics must be aware of — including safety concerns, such as the risk of getting shocked by an EV's high-voltage electrical system.
2. Deep technical knowledge: One of the unique opportunities with newly manufactured EVs and EV batteries is that they'll have software and technology connectivity baked into the car's architecture. Traditional vehicles have been around for more than a century, but the advanced technological capabilities have only recently been integrated as add-on features. Mechanics of the future may be less likely to pick up that wrench and instead will be coding software updates to be sent over the air to owners around the world via cloud technology. Applications for battery power regeneration, or for testing brakes, could also be the norm when vehicle conditions are inspected and assessed. In a world of EVs, having employees with the right technical knowledge of software programming, data management and predictive technology will be just as valuable as having those who can fix a car's physical problems.
3. Charging network experience: As large as the opportunity is for preparing mechanics of the future, there also is a growing need for workers to build and maintain a scaled EV charging network. The U.S. government's infrastructure bill includes $7.5 billion for a public EV-charging network stretched across the country. While these stations may have similarities to the gas stations we are familiar with, the scale of the operation is uncharted territory for the auto industry. For mechanics who aspire to work on EVs, gaining experience maintaining and producing the charging networks needed to keep them running could be a vital piece of foundational learning. Long term, EV service centers may offer on-site charging while vehicles are being repaired or inspected. With the growing popularity of charging EVs at home, technicians who have the skills to install these ports at owners' homes will also be valuable members of any service center's team. Through early developments in contactless charging while on the go, innovations in the EV charging space are just scratching the surface.
With the backing of government resources and ambitious goals to reach by 2030, more EVs are coming — and quickly. While many of the skills needed to maintain and fix EVs will remain the same, the differences will require specialized training, deep technical knowledge and an understanding of the EV charging ecosystem. By gaining the necessary skills in these three areas, mechanics of the future will be well prepared to service EVs as adoption grows.