LONDON/DETROIT/MILAN - A global shortage of technicians and independent repair shops qualified to fix EVs threatens to increase repair and warranty costs for drivers, potentially undermining upcoming deadlines to cut vehicle carbon emissions.
From Milan to Melbourne to Malibu, technician training organizations, warranty providers and repairers say that independent repair shops will be vital for making EVs affordable because they are far cheaper than franchise dealers.
Many garage owners balk at training and equipment costs for fixing high-voltage EVs - with 400- and 800-volt systems that could electrocute and kill unwary or untrained technicians in seconds - especially with relatively few EVs on the road.
Along with electrocution risks, the risk of EV fires - notoriously hard to put out - also has to be taken seriously.
Roberto Petrilli, 60, who owns an independent repair shop in Milan, is reluctant to spend 30,000 euros ($32,600) on the needed equipment when EV sales in Italy are still low and the charging network is tiny.
"I am seven years away from retirement and I think it is not worth it," said Petrilli.
The auto repair industry has already been short of workers since the pandemic. The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) based in Hertford, England, develops automotive training courses and is rolling out EV courses across China and aims to do so in India and across Europe. It forecasts that Britain, with a 2030 fossil-fuel car sale ban, could be short 25,000 EV technicians by 2032.
In the U.S., the world's No. 2 auto market after China, EV sales growth has trailed Europe's, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts around 80,000 electrician jobs will be needed annually through 2031, including technicians to fix EVs or install EV chargers.
And Australia could be 9,000 EV technicians short by 2030, the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce predicts.
Auto experts fear mechanics like Petrilli in Milan will simply avoid EVs - leaving consumers with higher bills and longer repair times.
Data shared with Reuters by UK used car warranty provider Warrantywise shows costs are already rising - with a one-year warranty for a Tesla Model 3 costing more than triple the average for comparably-priced fossil-fuel models.
CEO Lawrence Whittaker said Warrantywise must use expensive franchise dealers to fix EVs because they more often have qualified technicians than independent shops.
Whittaker's concern is that higher insurance and warranty costs mean EVs will remain too expensive for many consumers.
"How are people going to afford the higher repair costs?" he said.