What we learned from the world's first hybrid and electric skills station at SkillsUSA 2018: A wake up call for automotive educators everywhere
just thought I would share this experience with you all, I wrote this article originally on LinkedIn for auto instructors and those involved in education, but thought it might be interesting for you as well. I'd be interested to know what you guys think about the topic.
HV Vehicles for the first time at SkillsUSA 2018
Lucas-Nuelle recently partnered with the SkillsUSA Automotive Service Technology Technical Committee to run the world's first ever skills station to test the competitors’ knowledge and skills on high voltage vehicles. SkillsUSA is one of the largest skills contests in the world and is for high school and college students in many different fields.
The task that was selected was a shut down, or isolation of the high voltage system. There were no faults to find or "tricks", just shut down the system and declare it safe before reinstating it. The CarTrain electric vehicle training systems which are part of the Lucas-Nuelle line up were used for this assessment. These systems have been designed to give a realistic experience, while being 100% safe for the competitors and onlookers. Safety has been one of the factors why hybrid vehicles have not been a part of any skills contests in the past. On reflection, this proved a sensible decision as had real vehicles been used, some competitors would have placed themselves in real danger.
Without going into details of the station, as many other countries now want to incorporate this into their skills events, I want to share with you the critical safety issues that we found during the competition. The competitors were given a selection of HV gloves, DMMs, measurement leads and other measuring and safety equipment; more than they needed to perform the task. This was designed to make the competitor consider the scenario and the options and make a choice, as we were testing who is the best of the best! A lot of students told us as they started the station that they had never studied or worked on hybrids or electric vehicles which was fair enough; not everyone is teaching it yet, but as they were told "all the information you need is in the supplied manual".
The skills gap with our next generation of technicians
The contest gave us a very interesting, honest look at the skills of the students that are being trained now and I think it is something that urgently needs to be addressed. We can’t allow these young trainees to be unprepared for something that may not be ubiquitous yet, but will be at some point in their career. These vehicles are out there en masse and almost every week we see a new model on the market and this trend will only continue. These vehicles are here to stay and it's not a big stretch to say that every technician in training right now, will be exposed to high voltage vehicles at some point in the not too distant future.
It's much better for a student to learn about what they need to do to keep safe while in school, than to wait until they are in the workshop, possibly under pressure to experience a high voltage vehicle for the first time.
The following are my findings on the station and what teachers need to focus on, at the very least, to ensure this new generation of techs are safe. Now, before you say "my program doesn't or can't afford the vehicles, or I don't have the expertize yet", just wait, I'm not talking technical things here, such as inverters, high voltage batteries and 3 phase motors, megaohm and milliohm testers. I'm talking pure safety, things that anyone can at least cover in any class. Those other things are very important and are absolutely necessary to train HV techs, but let’s make sure that all students are at least prepared for when the day comes that they will see a HV vehicle, whether they want to or not. If you are an instructor, or administrator, please take this into consideration.
Here are some of the things to pay attention to:
Gloves. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is the last line of defence and even if you have done everything else wrong, it should keep you safe. If you have the correct PPE that is. The competitors needed to select from various pairs of gloves. The students need to be aware of the following:
- Correct class of glove.
- Testing procedure.
- Date stamp.
- How to use leather gloves if used.
- We even witnessed some competitors remove HV components with no gloves at all!
Measuring equipment. One of the most important things to do when isolating the HV system, is to verify that the system has been isolated and there is no voltage measured in the system and ensure it is safe to work on. Correctly rated equipment in good condition is an imperative. The students need to be aware of the following:
- Correct CAT rating for the meter.
- Don't forget the leads for the meter!
- Some laws call for the use of the "one hand rule", ensuring that only one hand is in contact with the circuit at a time, to further reduce risk of electrocution.
Workshop manuals. RTFM (Read The Factory Manual!). You need to know what you are working on and understand when it is safe or not. We had students removing service plugs without gloves, taking the verification measurements at the wrong spots, not securing the vehicle against someone else starting it, amongst others, even though the procedure was clearly stated in the manual. This can be of course attributed to the pressure of the situation and no prior experience, but this will happen again one day with an impatient service manager, or a customer who needed the car an hour ago. The students need to be aware of the following:
- HV components (what to touch and what not to touch).
- Isolation procedure. There are many different ways and methods to shut down HV systems and students should be at least aware of them.
- Verification procedure. While every vehicle has many levels of failsafe built in, it is always important to test to make sure the voltage in the capacitors has dissipated.
- Lock out/Tag out. Placing the key and the service disconnect in a lock box will ensure that no one attempts to start the vehicle while you are working on it.
- Safety of others. You may be required to surround the vehicle with a safety barrier to ensure others are aware the vehicle must be avoided.
It’s time for a debate on training, licensing and its consequences for the industry
It’s time to start a discussion on what the future of technician training is going to be. From the SkillsUSA experience, I really feel that ALL technicians in training should be taught minimum safety standards for high voltage vehicles, even if they are not officially taking part in a HEV or EV program.
I have outlined here below a couple of examples from around the world to get a glimpse of what some countries are doing.
Some countries are pursuing licensing of HV technicians, for example, in the UK, the IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry, the UK’s Sector Skills Council for the automotive industry with national and international qualifications) is working with the UK government to ensure that adequate training is given to everyone and the approach to guarantee this would be to require technicians to be licensed to work on HV vehicles. The IMI has existing standards that have been developed and evolved as the technology changes that would form the basis of such training and the UK Department for Transport strategy paper, “Road to Zero” which underlines their commitment to work with the IMI and other keys stakeholders to move towards licensing. Many countries require a license to work on AC systems, so it is conceivable that licensing be required for working on HV vehicles.
Germany has a slightly different approach, their standards have been developed by the National Occupational Health and Safety Organisation (DGUV in German), so this means that training is now coupled to OH&S laws, so if you are hurt while working on HV vehicles and you have not done the correct level of training, you are not protected by these laws. This also includes the management of an organisation that must ensure that their employees have the correct level of training and correct safety equipment and tools needed to perform their job.
Both the German and UK training standards include various levels of training according the job requirements, such as stage 1 is a general awareness type of training for drivers, managers and other non-technical staff, stage 2 is for technical staff that can shut down a HV vehicle, and then work on the vehicle once it has been verified to be free of voltage. Stage 3 is working on live high voltage systems, such as high-level diagnostics and working on the high voltage battery. This training obviously requires the highest level of training and assessment. Another special type training is given specifically for fire fighters and rescue personnel on how to identify, approach and deal with damaged vehicles.
I can also imagine that it won’t be long before insurance companies require technicians working on vehicles to be certified or licensed before they can even touch the vehicles, as they will not accept responsibility for the technician or the vehicle owner/driver being hurt as a result of the repairs carried out by untrained technicians. Who would be liable in this case? The person who fixed the car, or the insurance company that authorized the repair? That’s not a trivial question.
Thanks for reading and please post your thoughts on the matter, or if you have any questions, please let me know!
Daniel, Loved your article. I welcome an opportunity for a podcast interview. I would love to get this 'story' told. Please reach out. ….
Great article! We have access to hybrid vehicles for training and demonstrating how to disable the high voltage system safely is the FIRST thing on our list! Thanks for the information..
Thanks Jim, and great that you have been doing this already!
Hi Carm, Thanks for the comments and I'd love to talk with you about this. I'll be in touch!
It is amazing to me that teaching this technology has been neglected since the introduction of Hybrid vehicles almost 20 years ago. I hope that this is a wake up call for instructors and potential technician alike.
Hey Michael, thanks for the comment and yeah I see where you are coming from. I'm not saying there is no training going on, there are some amazing programs out there and I think everyone was just caught in the propaganda of "EVs and hybrids are never going to make it", but slowly everyone is seeing that they will be the future for the majority. Most instructors that I speak to now are realizing
Daniel, awesome article, I couldn't agree with you more. As a hybrid vehicle technician working in at a Hybrid Shop franchise in northeast Philadelphia I work on several hybrids every week that come from relatively long distances to be worked on. You are 100% correct about the standard of training that should be required especially for safety reasons but also the sheer fact that this hybrid
Hey David, thanks for your comments! Totally agree with you, there is plenty of training providers and training equipment is also starting to come onto the market (should have said full disclosure in the article, our company build such equipment, but I wanted to make it as neutral as possible), but the techs and garage owners need to want to do it. I think also there is some massive
Daniel, Do consider reaching out to Carm Capriotto with Remarkable Results. He and his show are a great asset to this Industry. I believe that a good deal of our conversation needs to revolve around making sure that we are doing what we need to do to attract and retain the brightest minds. Part of that is making sure that they are properly prepared before entering into the work force. Thank
Hey Brin, Thanks for that, I actually have been listening to RR for a while, so I am really happy to be asked to take part! There is a lot of conversation going on around the world about the skills shortage and what can be done, and as technology gets more complex, as you mention, we are going to need the best to come and join us! Thanks, Daniel
Nice write-up Daniel! Hybrid and electric vehicle training is covered here in BC in Apprenticeship Level 1, "Implement specific safety protocols for hybrid and electric vehicles (EV)" and again in Level 4 "Diagnose and repair hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) systems". This is something that we do take extremely seriously and not only on hybrid and EV systems, but we must also consider that the
Hey Martin, thanks very much for the comprehensive reply! Totally see it the same way and that's great that it is being covered like that early on, but as you mention, it is the existing techs and garages that also pose a risk. We are all going to have to do something about this in the near future I think. I'd love to offer my assistance with the project that your colleague is working on, I
Hi Daniel. Could you send me your contact info to … please? My colleague is currently away on vacation, but I am sure that he will look forward to connecting with you when he returns. Thanks. Martin
Hi Daniel. It was good to meet you last year at Skills and even better working with you and Chris this year. Very nice article you have written and you are helping to get the ball rolling on this subject. Hope to see you again next June.
Hi Merle, Thanks a lot, was a pleasure to be working with you this year and a great team to be a part of, thanks for making us welcome!
So as a guy who just moved to a new shop that starting to get into hybrid repair where is the best place to find the proper equipment. You talked about needing it but what's required?
Hi Craig. Excellent questions! Below, I will "highlight" just a few of the routines, requirements and tools suitable for Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) ) and Electric Vehicle (EV) diagnosis and repair. This is just a glimpse and by no means a complete list or substitution for proper training and learning about the requirements in your area. Of course, the best place to start is at the beginning
Thank you!!! That information is exactly what I was looking for.
All I can add as a technician who works on hybrids day in and day out, the gloves are not practical!! I dont mean they are uncomfortable to wear, I mean no actual work can realisticlly be done with the gloves on. My advise to any trainers, or techs unfamiliar with hybrid systems, is to teach/learn where to measure with a proper DMM to ensure the hybrid system is safe to work on.
Great summary Mike, thanks very much! I didn't go into such detail in my original post as I was trying not to give away too much info to next years competitors, but in a venue like this, what you have written, is perfect!
Thanks Daniel for providing such a well needed station at Skills Nationals this year! I was impressed by the thoroughness of your station and look forward to he awareness that it will continue to bring to hybrid safety. Good job!