The Aftermarket Can Capitalize on the Electrified Vehicle Maintenance & Repair Market
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) have been in the U.S. market for over 20 years, and Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) and Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) are nearing the 10 year mark, there is a maintenance market that has been virtually untapped by the automotive Aftermarket. With over 5 million electrified vehicles on the streets of the U.S. today, and millions more coming out of warranty in the next 5 years, why isn’t the Aftermarket capitalizing and growing the electrified vehicle maintenance and service market? Much of the Aftermarket believes that there is minimal maintenance or service that can be performed on HEV, PHEV, and BEV vehicles (electrified vehicles). This is not the case. Therefore, let’s outline one of the primary systems for maintenance and service: the high voltage Drive Motor (DM) and Generator (Gen). In HEV and PHEV systems, a DM and Gen are used to provide vehicle propulsion, with the DM being the larger of the two electric machines.
In a BEV, only a DM with gear reduction and differential are used. There is no engine to drive a Gen to produce electrical power. Since there is no engine, a BEV is plugged into utility electrical power to store energy in a battery pack that will be transferred to a power inverter module and DM for propulsion.
Electrified vehicles are designed with a battery pack system and most service centers and consumers are aware of this system. Additionally, Aftermarket repair centers are more aware of the diagnostics, state-of-health (SOH) analysis and repair associated with the battery pack system, when compared to electric machine systems.
However, when it comes to the electric machines (DM and Gen), there has been minimal diagnostic, state-of-health (SOH) or repair training or information provided to the Aftermarket. As with engines, electric machines do not last forever, and will eventually fail for a variety of reasons. When a gasoline/diesel engine or electric motor begins its service life, the cycle brings the incremental wear (over a long or short period) of the mechanical and/or electrical components that, eventually results in an end-of-life (i.e., failure). Analyzing the SOH of a DM or Gen stator and rotor can be daunting task if a technician is not equipped to properly test the unit.
When a customer brings a vehicle to a repair center to solve a particular driveability problem, the technician may test the engine, ignition system, fuel system, etc. for proper operation and SOH to determine the root cause of the complaint. Within electrified vehicle propulsion systems, technicians will need to test a DM or Gen stator and rotor for SOH to solve a driveability problem or to confirm a failure/complaint. The SOH testing targets the stator windings, magnet wire and slot insulation, rotor magnets or rotor bars. Fundamentally, the electrical and magnetic elements of the DM or Gen are tested utilizing a significant number of electrical test metrics. Failures of a DM or Gen can result in loss of propulsion, driveline torque ripple, driveline hunting, electrical noise, electric machine humming, or intermittent failures that feel like an ignition miss or a fuel delivery problem. Accurately determining the root cause of a driveability complaint requires software driven electronic testing tools that can identify SOH and/or chronic failures.
Unfortunately, most Aftermarket service centers are not yet equipped to perform SOH or more comprehensive diagnostic testing of DM or Gen units. Therefor, these are opportunities to increase profitability with services to customers with electrified vehicles.
Service centers would be unable to capitalize on services such as, SOH testing or repairs if, the service centers were unaware or unequipped to identify aging or chronic failed conditions. Identifying propulsion system failure modes or, units that have failed, is the key metric with electrified propulsion systems. There are service centers, albeit few that, are equipped with minimal tools such as, milliohm meters and insulation meters. However, these tools do not/can not provide a true DM or Gen SOH status or identify more finite electric machine failure modes.
Testing tools made for electrified vehicle DM or Gen testing ensure that automotive technicians do not need to be engineers or have extensive specialization training when acquiring comprehensive data as part of testing a DM or Gen.
The AT33 EV instrument enables a technician to quickly determine the health status of DM/Gen rotors and stators so service centers can offer more options to repair the electrified vehicle system. A repair may include only the rotor, stator or, both.
In an HEV or PHEV, Gen’s are not often the failure point but, they do occur. The DM fails significantly more than the Gen, due to its role in providing propulsion torque based during a wide range of drive cycle types (city or highway), terrain, aggressiveness, geographic location, and frequency of vehicle operation.
The AT33 has successfully been used to determine SOH and failure modes on many vehicles including products from GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Toyota and others. The AT33 EV has tested model years from 2001 to 2018. The AT33 EV has been used successfully in testing DM and Gen units at auto manufacturer engineering centers and R&D departments. It was the preferred tool selected to be the utilized by one of the largest automotive OEMs in 2008 for its consistent testing results and functionality to locate the cause of a DM or Gen failure. Since the infancy of the tester, the AT33 EV has improved over the years with feedback from users to become the go to tool for all applications of electrified vehicle propulsion system testing beyond R&D, and into automotive service centers. The AT33 EV could be utilized by a service center to provide scheduled maintenance services (i.e., performing maintenance checks every 2-3 years), SOH testing (trending/determine the aging of a unit) or, to confirm a failure (mode).
From the servicing viewpoint, many electric machine stator or rotor components within electrified vehicle transaxles or drive units can be serviced (replaced) without removing the transmission from the vehicle (by accessing the DM from the transaxle side cover). An alternative repair strategy is to replace an entire half or the entire transmission. Another alternative for servicing a DM or Gen is to purchase used units from a salvage business. However, that can be a significant risk without knowing the true SOH of the GM or Gen.
If a service center were able to test used units prior to a purchase, this would minimize risk and provide longer warranties, while increasing profitability and reducing the overall repair cost. Testing electric machines for resale from a salvage business would generate higher revenue, provide the customer with a lower cost solution, and give the used part market confidence when purchasing and reselling inventories of salvage electrified vehicles. The AT33 EV provides electrified vehicle DM and Gen testing with a simple but, comprehensive process to determine SOH, that would enable the salvage business and the Aftermarket service center confidence when completing diagnostics and service on an electrified vehicle transaxle or drive unit. Acquiring data from used electrified vehicle DM or Gen units is critical to ensure the required due diligence has been performed before the used unit is sold.
The cost of selling transaxles or transmissions is based on mileage and condition. Unfortunately, mileage or visual condition on a used (or new) component does not translate to a guaranteed future performance. The SOH on a DM or Gen can be verified before or after it is removed from the vehicle and confirmed before resale and upon receipt by the repair facility and after installation. It takes less than 3 minutes to perform testing with the AT33 EV, so the salvage business or Aftermarket service center can quickly verify the transmission.
Confidence in testing DM or Gen is also critical for automotive centers reselling a used electrified vehicle. Selling an electrified vehicle without knowing the status of the DM or Gen can affect the reputation of the seller and result in expensive warranty repairs. The AT33 EV’s repeatable performance has gained the trust of technicians and engineers worldwide.
The replacement cost of a new transmission or transaxle can range from an average of $3,000 to $6,000. A cost of a good used transmission is significantly less, at approximately 20% -50% of a new unit. Knowing the status of the DM and Gen beyond the mileage or visual condition translates to greater revenues related to electrified vehicle trade-in value and resale, which translates to more satisfied consumers and referrals.
The HEV, PHEV, and BEV market is providing the Aftermarket with significant opportunity to expand its maintenance, diagnostic, and service network. As electrified vehicle models continues to populate, it will heavily compliment and begin to displace traditional vehicles with combustion engines. Consumers of electrified vehicles are continually searching for OEM dealer alternatives for their vehicles, with many preferring Aftermarket service centers. Utilizing AT33 EV as part of the servicing test equipment will go a long way to bolstering the business profitability while ensuring a quality diagnostic and SOH process.
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