As a 50-year veteran of the tire industry, Ron Lautzenheiser is surprised at how many EVs his shops service. Believe it or not, he estimates that 5-10% of service across his four locations – two Big O Tires stores and two Grease Monkey stores in Fort Collins, Colorado—comes from EVs. While Ron has hopped on the EV preparation bandwagon, he feels other industry professionals need to prepare for the inevitable EV charge.
“This will be the most impactful change to light-duty vehicles since the horse and buggy [transitioned to the Model T],” said Lautzenheiser.
We all tend to have a hard time with change, especially when it comes to new technology. Every innovation or major piece of technology released is usually met with pushback and doubt. Lautzenheiser admits he initially had no idea what it took to service EVs when they first came to market. With EVs predicted to make a big impact on the industry, dealers and shop owners across the country like Lautzenheiser are left wondering: How will this impact my business? What are the proper resources, equipment and training to correctly service electric vehicles? Let’s find out.
Charging-Up for Change
Though he recognizes concerns within shop circles about a potential lack of service opportunities for EVs, Lautzenheiser, who is the chair of TIA’s new EV Advisory Council, has seen lots of possibilities since his locations began servicing EVs and hybrids.
“The [top] maintenance items on an electric vehicle are flat tires, tire repairs, tire rotations and tire service,” he said. “We have worked on lots of [EVs and hyrbids] and changed lots of tires, and we learned that they consume tires much more quickly than ICE vehicles…because of weight.”
John Forro, technical trainer specialist for Autel’s EV team, said in order to fully understand customers’ EV tire service needs, shops need to understand that EVs have different types of tires and wear differently. He said there are five things shops need in order to service EVs:
- A proper understanding of EV tires in general;
- An up-to-date tire changer and balancer;
- A tire tread depth measuring tool;
- A good alignment machine;
- A properly functioning ADAS calibration system on the vehicle.
Forro emphasized that EV service training is essential. Autel provides free training for anyone with a series of EV-related webinars called “Electron-John” hosted by Forro. He said diagnostic equipment will have to follow suit with new and updated scan tool platforms and mentioned the importance of providing charging during service.
“All auto repair shops will need a Level 2 charger,” Forro said. “First, EVs deplete electrons the entire time it is in your bay, reducing its battery life. You can’t give a customer’s vehicle back without enough charge to make it home.”
According to EvoCharge, Level 2 chargers will get an average of 32 miles of driving range per hour of charge, as opposed to a Level 1 charger, which will typically only get 4 miles of driving range per hour of charge.
“Using a Level 1 charger simply takes way too long, which hinders profit,” Forro adds. “Second, there are times when a customer has a charging complaint – shops need a Level 2 charger to diagnose that type of complaint.”
As for lifting the extra weight of EVs, Tom Larson, TBC Corp.’s senior director of business development, said TBC recommends that all lifts are certified by the Automotive Lift Institute. EV-specific lift pads are required, as failure to use proper ones at the right points can cause damage to the vehicle. There are also universal and Tesla-specific lift pads currently available, such as Challenger Lift Tesla Pads.
EV Tire Recommendations
According to Larson, EV owners look for specific attributes in a new set of EV tires, like longevity, range and reduced noise output. Some manufacturers have adjusted their current lineup to deliver on these attributes, while others are launching replacement lines specifically designed for EVs.
“The first consideration for EV tires should be the original equipment,” Larson said. “When recommending tires for battery electric vehicles (BEVs), some unique characteristics should be considered. For example, they can be up to 30% heavier and generally have a higher torque which is applied differently than their ICE counterparts. Taking this into account is extremely important.”
Russell Shepherd, Michelin North America’s technical communications director, said manufacturers have no choice but to develop more durable tires, due to the weight and the design of EVs.
“Batteries [make] electric vehicles so heavy and their added weight can reduce tire longevity which makes tire durability more important,” Shepherd said. “They also have a lot of torque and generate it during regenerative braking. [Michelin] estimates that tire longevity is 20% shorter on an EV due to the vehicle’s weight and torque.”
He added that because electric vehicles are virtually silent, tires are the main source of the noise output. EV customers prefer little to no noise, so manufacturers need to produce quiet tires. Shepherd also said it’s important for customers to maximize their battery range. Michelin and other manufacturers focus on the rolling resistance and aerodynamics of EV tires, as it has an impact on the battery range of electric vehicles.
Shepherd said that although tweaks can be done to reduce noise, extend range, etc. during the tire manufacturing process, it’s up to dealers to make sure they have the right service equipment and training to help customers get more out of their tires.
How to Lead the Charge
With the US Congress recently passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which implemented an up to $7,500 tax credit for new EV purchasers and up to $4,000 for used EV purchasers, Lautzenheiser said shop owners and tire dealers have no choice but to adapt for the future if the government continues to reward current and future EV owners.
Lautzenheiser added that if you think you or your techs aren’t up on EV knowledge, TIA is developing and will soon release a website detailing best service practices, a glossary of common EV terms and how to recommend a set of EV tires.
“It’s going to be a long time before EVs dominate the market,” he said. “But [shop owners] should realize the tsunami is coming, and it’s going to have a major impact on the tire industry. Major impact. You don’t see them coming – all of a sudden it’s 20 feet tall. That’s what going to happen to [the industry]. In fact, that’s not going to happen, it is happening.”
Larson said if he could give any advice to dealers and shop owners, it’s to be ready for the wave and to get prepared before it’s too late.
“[We know that] longevity of the same tire will be reduced with an EV as compared to an ICE vehicle, equating to more tire replacements,” he said. “This may partially offset the traditional ICE vehicle services that are not applicable to EVs. Servicing the EV market now will allow you to share in the continued growth of EVs in the future.”