With an increasing number of motorists driving electric and hybrid vehicles on Britain’s roads, it’s becoming increasingly important for breakdown companies to have the capabilities to respond to call-outs from them.
For a start, patrols working nationwide need to understand how these vehicles work from a mechanical perspective.
But they also need the skills and tools to assess and repair the vehicles’ drive systems, which can run at up to 600 volts.
The consensus among the breakdown firms Fleet News contacted is that electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids are not “proportionately more likely” to break down compared with their petrol or diesel equivalents.
But the current scarcity of EVs in particular – combined with their recent manufacture – means that their long-term reliability has yet to be properly tested.
The major breakdown firms also agree that the most common call-out in connection with EVs is batteries running out of charge (most currently average 80-100 miles on a single charge).
RAC national fleet manager Timothy Hartles says giving patrols the skills and equipment to handle these vehicles is becoming more important as their popularity increases.
“Dealing with electric and hybrid vehicles in a breakdown scenario is a growing priority for the RAC and our patrols have gone through product and safety training for both,” he says.
“More than 600 of our patrols have received dedicated training to ‘electrically instructed persons’ standard.
“These are able to work on hybrid breakdowns and have a basic knowledge of what can go wrong – like issues with recharging.
“There are a further 400 patrols that we’ve trained in each region to ‘high voltage technician’ standard.
“These have a more comprehensive knowledge of the workings of electric vehicles in particular, with a view to being able to identify the reason for the breakdown at the roadside.
“While the number of breakdowns of hybrids and electric cars is still very low, the most common problem we see is in urban areas around exhausted range when the battery goes flat . For this reason, we are currently evaluating a portable charging solution.”
A portable charger would be capable of delivering an emergency charge “to get the car to a fixed charge point” and, in the process, “helps reduce motorist anxiety”.