The independent garage shaping Britain’s EV repair network

Hevra was created to help with the maintenance of EVs. It requires specialized training and a lot detective work. John Evans and some of its members meet at Good Guys Garage

As Luke Daisley, the owner of Good Guys Garage in Essex takes out the main fuse of a Nissan Leaf, I am reminded of my sales colleagues who rushed to the showroom window when I removed the cables from the battery. Is there a flash? Fortunately, not.

Daisley says that people believe electric cars are dangerous and always live. “The truth is, you would have to do something stupid in order to get an electric shock.”

However, this is not true strictly speaking, as the Health and Safety Executive and other organisations have made clear. Daisley, a former soldier who served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, isn’t going to take any chances. Good Guys was established in January as a general garage that specializes in servicing and repairing hybrids and electric vehicles. Emre Taner, his colleague, has worked on a few EVs since then. He is confident there will be more.

Daisley’s optimism has a solid foundation. In the next 10 years, 12.7 million EVs will be on UK roads. Garages such as Daisley’s will benefit from EVs that are out of warranty.

Taner and he are both qualified to work with EVs, and they have many years of experience. EV training is not available to thousands of UK technicians. According to the Institute of the Motor Industry, of the total 238,000 technicians in the UK, only 15,500 have been registered on the Techsafe register. They are therefore qualified to work with EVs. This is a problem that could not only be dangerous but also increase the cost of EV repairs. It discourages drivers from switching to EVs. The group is asking the government for funding to train another 75,000 EV technicians.

Peter Melville, an automotive diagnostics engineer and veteran, realized four years ago that UK vehicle technicians were not equipped with EV training. Once qualified, they also lack technical support. Technicians who work on petrol or diesel vehicles have unlimited support from their manufacturers, suppliers, and colleagues. However, those who work with EVs are often unable to find meaningful assistance.

Melville also realized that drivers whose EVs have expired in warranty may want to have them serviced by independent shops, rather than main dealers. But who are they to trust to do the job properly?

In 2017, he founded the Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance, (Hevra). Its website proclaims that it is run by EV drivers for drivers. Although it sounds like a marketing slogan, Hevra is actually a group of EV enthusiasts who share their knowledge to benefit customers and members.

Hevra will send one of its engineers to assist in finding the solution to any EV problems if it doesn’t know.

Gary Clayton, former IT professional and Hevra support specialist, says that “I enjoy being called to solve a new problem.” He is one of 160 Hevra members. I met him at Good Guys to learn more. He summarizes it well: “We take fault intelligence from member garages. We combine it with our diagnostics skills to help them quickly get to the root cause of EV problems.”

It is difficult to understand fault codes and how they are used. He remembers a Renault Zoe that would not start or charge. This was a Renault Zoe he bought from a main dealer. He says that the car displayed a fault code which indicated that the motor controller was at fault. “The customer had been quoted PS3500 by the main dealer workshop to fix it. The problem was simply a cracked main fuses.

Hevra members also encounter “high voltage loss or isolation” as a fault code. This indicates that there is a power leakage between chassis and battery pack. However, many technicians are stumped by it. Clayton says that the only way to find out if there is a leakage is to wear insulated gloves and use an insulation resistance tester. Clayton says that the air conditioner compressor is often to blame. Hevra members are known for diagnosing faults quickly and fixing broken parts rather than replacing them. Because individual parts for EVs can be so difficult to find (for example, there are no manufacturers that supply individual batteries cells), many people keep a few spares EVs. Good Guys is the UK’s largest source of used parts for Nissan Leaf.

Taner and Daisley are replacing the faulty battery cells on a 2011 car that has lost its range from approximately 80 to 45 miles. Taner uses a cell reader to identify the problem cell and remove it. Then, he replaces it with a used one. The job takes about a day, but it allows the Nissan to continue its journey and not be restricted to local use.

Clayton states, “Ours is fault-finding business that requires a forensic approach to problems.” Clayton says that grease monkeys are not required to apply.

What is wrong with older EVs?

There are many older electric cars that are still in use. So what problems should you be aware about?

For example, charging problems can occur with Renault Zoes. This is often due to the rectifier, which converts AC current into DC. While many garages will replace the entire battery charger for around PS3000 (for those who have the necessary skills), the cost to replace individual parts will be closer to PS1000. A failed heater element can occur in Nissan Leafs.

Correct diagnosis of EV faults can make the difference between lower costs and higher repair costs.