Hot Topic for the Collision Industry… Hybrid Technology The Collision Industry is facing challenges unforeseen just five to ten years ago. Hybrid technology is just one example. These vehicles present a entirely new set of safety, productivity and profitability issues for collision shops.
Hybrid technology helps reduce emissions and oil dependency. The
United States imports nearly 60% of its oil needs, and
hybrid cars, trucks and SUVs can consume up to 50% less fuel
than other vehicles. Several manufacturers have developed hybrid
vehicles with more on the way. Hybrids incorporate
high-voltage batteries, electric motors and traditional
internal combustion engines. The battery is recharged onboard via
a regenerative braking system.
Hybrid Repair Challenges
Hybrids are different, but two traits they share with ordinary
vehicles is that they WILL be involved in collisions and
they WILL need repairs. And hybrids require
special procedures that MUST be followed – without
exception. Here are a few major concerns:
Sensors and computers – Hybrids incorporate more electronic
systems than other vehicles. These systems require special
knowledge, and care must be taken not to damage them.
High voltage batteries – Special procedures are required by
technicians. The auxiliary batteries generate enough
sufficient amperage and voltage to cause severe injury or
death. And even when people are not injured, it is easy to
cause expensive damage to the vehicle if procedures are not
precisely followed. Once air bags deploy, the high voltage
system will be disabled until repaired.
High voltage batteries – Because the auxiliary batteries keep
them selves in a state of constant charge, the vehicle must
be properly disabled with the ignition key and service plug
removed. The service plug should be placed in the
technicians’ pocket, so that it cannot accidentally be
replaced. Technicians must protect themselves by wearing
special electrical lineman’s gloves, goggles and safety
High voltage cable – Technicians must be extremely cautious
when working on and around the bright orange high voltage
cable. Any damage to the cable can present a hazard.
Refinishing hybrids – Manufacturers recommend that curing
temperatures in paint booths be kept below 150 degrees to
prevent damage to the hybrid batteries. Hybrid batteries are
very costly, and shops cannot afford to replace them and
Crash procedures – Hybrid manufacturers and industry
professionals have published safety and extrication
procedures, training classes and manuals for use by police,
fire departments, emergency medical teams and towing companies
when responding to a hybrid collision.
In 2004 hybrid sales averaged 5 to 10 thousand units per month
and have increased to well above 15,000 units per month in
2007. Before beginning repairs on hybrid vehicles, it is
ESSENTIAL that technicians have access to factory-correct
information and training in order to avoid liability,
injuries and unnecessary damage to the vehicle. With
the increasing popularity of hybrids, it is very likely they
will begin appearing in shops with greater frequency.