Why motorcycle workshops need to upskill to survive the surge in EV adoption

With Singapore’s aging car population, local carmakers have seen an increase in business over the past few years.

As of July 2022, more than 20% of cars in Singapore have been used for 9 years or more. The number of people choosing to renew their Certificate of Interest (COE) on cars that are decades old is also increasing. This number has increased from 7.7% in 2007, to nearly 21% in 2022.

That said, the coming years may not be as pleasant for the engine shops. Although people are keeping their old cars now, eventually the fleet will need to change.

Electric vehicles (EVs) seem to be the obvious choice instead. Singapore plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles gradually by 2040 and as part of this plan, the Ministry of Transport has announced a series of tax breaks to encourage the use of electric vehicles.

In the first five months of 2022 alone, electric vehicles accounted for 8.4% of all new car registrations. This is an increase of more than two times compared to 2021 and a 20-fold increase compared to 2020.

This exponential growth puts motorcycle factories under pressure to expand their services and cater to electric vehicle customers.

Electric vehicle maintenance

Electric vehicles have different needs than internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs).

Since electric motors have fewer moving parts, they require less maintenance. No need to clean valves, change oil or replace spark plugs. In fact, automaker BYD estimates that the annual cost of maintaining an electric vehicle can be as little as half that of an ICEV.

Regular electric vehicle maintenance mainly revolves around the tires. Since these vehicles tend to be heavier than petrol and diesel vehicles, their tires tend to wear out faster. According to the company EV Recurrent, the life of conventional tires can be shortened by up to 20% when installed on EV vehicles.

electric car sharing bluesg
Electric cars are easier to brake, but the tires are harsher / Image Credit: BlueSG

On the other hand, electric cars with brakes are a lot easier. In fact, their brakes can last twice as long.

Unlike ICEV, EV relies on regenerative braking. This involves slowing down a vehicle by converting its kinetic energy into electricity, which can then be used to recharge the battery. In contrast, ICEV uses friction braking, which generates heat and leads to faster wear.

In addition, there are components such as the air conditioner and cabin air filter, which are quite similar between EVs and ICEVs.

EV battery repair

Things get more complicated when it comes to batteries. Since they’re built to last between 10 and 20 years, batteries don’t require as much maintenance as motors. However, there are cases where errors and glitches must be taken into account.

As it stands, most motor workshops in Singapore are not equipped to repair batteries. In fact, there are many electric vehicle manufacturers that do not offer these services.

“Many electric vehicle manufacturers currently have only one solution when their car’s battery unit fails or malfunctions – [replace] whole unit,” explains Porsche Asia Pacific’s Ridhwan Low.

However, replacing an entire battery pack incurs significant costs and also leads to waste. Companies are forced to recycle or dispose of precious materials like lithium, which are found in very low quantities on the planet.

porsche ev . battery hub
Image credit: Porsche

To avoid this, Porsche has been working on its own battery repair concept, which allows for the replacement of individual cells.

Repairing individual parts offers significant cost-effectiveness to electric vehicle owners. Individual battery module repairs also require less time to complete, meaning less overall downtime for EV owners. Finally and more importantly, the environmental impact of battery repair is also much lower, as there is less wasted material that needs to be recycled.

– Ridhwan Low, Aftermarket Certification Manager, Porsche Asia Pacific

Porsche sees this as an integral step in encouraging mass adoption of electric vehicles. For engine workshops, battery repair can also be an area to pivot, however, it requires a different skill set than engine repair.

Overcoming the skill barrier

At the beginning of the year, Porsche chose Singapore as the site of one of its first high-voltage repair centers. The company is looking to train technicians in its battery repair process.

He adds: “As Porsche sought to decentralize high voltage training to eight training sites worldwide, Singapore was chosen as the ideal location in the Asia Pacific region.

The company is taking note of the growing EV adoption rate and equipping its aftermarket team with the skills needed to maintain a premium level of care.

It’s like open heart surgery, except in a car, with high voltage safety precautions in place. Needless to say, this type of repair work requires an extremely high level of precision and training.

Porsche Asia Pacific boasts three High Voltage Specialists in its Aftersales team and looks forward to continuing to enhance the High Voltage Technician training programs in this region.

– Ridhwan Low, Aftermarket Certification Manager, Porsche Asia Pacific

ev battery repair
Image credit: Times of Malta

The company also recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to standardize and train technicians in tram service in Singapore. Porsche offers three levels of qualifications, with training managed through classroom and web-based learning.

“Once all qualifications have been met, mechanics are allowed to work at the respective levels of vehicle repair. To maintain a high level of knowledge retention, Porsche High Voltage technicians must perform at least one repair per year to maintain their level of expertise,” explains Low.

The memorandum of understanding also includes 20 other organizations – auto companies, fleet owners and government agencies – that are taking on the responsibility of training automotive technicians in electric vehicle maintenance.

As the push for sustainable transport continues, it remains to be seen whether Singapore’s engine factories will meet the challenge.

Featured Image Credits: Carro

Also read: Adapt or die: What will happen to gas stations as EV adoption ramps up in S’pore?

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