Rodriguez has over 30 years of experience with automotive, diesel, on-board electrical/electronics, alternative fuels and clean vehicles. His background includes serving as a contributing editor for ASE TechNews and manager of ASE Special Testing Programs as well as many other automotive-related training and technical posts.
In previous articles of Auto Service Professional magazine, we talked about hybrid electric vehicles, focusing on the most prominent types of drive systems and the most critical and most often needed services being performed by aftermarket shops.
We also focused on the need for qualified technicians when performing high voltage drive and related services on hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
In this third article in the hybrid electric vehicle series, we’ll cover these topics and more:
1. Types of hybrid vehicle training and what to expect from training providers.
2. Suggestions for sourcing introductory and in-depth hands-on HEV training.
3. Hybrid vehicle technician certification for those seeking professional credentials.
4. The scan tool of choice among top aftermarket HEV repair shops.
5. Training certification.
As you know, some HEV services are routine and do not differ from those performed on conventional front, rear, or all-wheel drive vehicles. On the other hand, when venturing into service of HEV drive systems — the high voltage systems identified by interconnecting cables with orange convolute wrap — having specialized training from qualified sources, and having the right tools and safety equipment is a must. So where do we go for quality HEV training?
HEV hands-on training and service information
Along with OEM on-line and classroom factory training intended for dealer technicians, such training is becoming increasingly available through independent training providers. To locate one, search the Internet for “hybrid vehicle training,” and refer to our listing of training providers. Our list is far from all-inclusive; there are likely many other training providers now offering light hybrid vehicle training, but be aware: Make sure any training offered is on par with OEM factory approved procedures. Some aftermarket classes and books billed as “training” may be little more than a laundry list of hands-on experience and a collection of pass-around parts and pictures in lieu of factory-approved diagnostic and repair procedures. If this is the case, look elsewhere for HEV training. Some classes are highly theoretical and rely on your having a command of single- and three-phase AC electrical systems. Your so-called “legacy knowledge” of 12-volt DC systems will not be of much help when it comes to HEV drive systems. Likewise, having ample hands-on experience with today’s diagnostic scanners and scopes will serve as a platform for performing HEV diagnostics.
Technicians may consider attending entry-level (semester-long) or in-service (evening or week-long) HEV training. If so, you might first check if the course covers the technical areas and related procedures shown in the previously provided chart1. But don’t expect a one- or two-day evening HEV clinic to cover all that’s considered need-to-know by our panel of SMEs. Just as “90-day-wonder” technicians do not qualify as advanced level cross-systems diagnosticians, attending one school will not equip you to tackle the entire fleet of HEVs out there. Along with formal training, getting some quality hands-on mentoring by more experienced and properly trained HEV technicians would be a good idea.
Who’s providing HEV training and what can I expect?
Doing a search on the Internet to find out “who’s who” in the HEV service training arena can be rewarding yet frustrating. How do you know how good the training is and how qualified the instructors are? On page 48 is a partial list of hybrid vehicle training providers with which I’m familiar. While not specifically endorsing any of them, I have attempted to offer some insight on what you can expect from them in the way of useful course content. Be sure to check these out for yourself to see if the subject matter covered suits your needs.
HEV certification for technicians
First of all, recognize that there are different levels of recognition for achievement. For example, technicians who sit through a clinic or week-long class may be awarded a Certificate of Attendance (I call this “rumps in chairs” recognition). Or, if upon completion of training, a well-designed and securely administered test is passed by the attendee, a credential may be awarded which attests to one’s professional knowledge and skill. Where high stakes safety or ethical standards must be demonstrated and recognized, a person may be required to hold a license.
In our profession, the most widely recognized and industry-supported testing and credentialing organization is the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Does ASE test and credential hybrid vehicle technicians? The short answer is “no.” ASE has no plans to offer a light hybrid vehicle certification exam at this time. There are not yet enough HEVs on the road to support development of a meaningful hybrid vehicle test (or test series).
Likewise, if it is to be sustainable, there is not yet a sufficiently large population of hybrid vehicle technicians (instructors, etc.) to warrant development of a hybrid vehicle test. In other words, there must be a sufficient body of technicians, instructors, etc., ready and willing to take an exam in the months and years following the initial rollout.
Also, because HEV technology is developing rapidly, a meaningful test cannot yet be developed until the market matures and subject matter experts can wrap their arms around generic (across multiple OEM applications) need-to-know service procedures on which to develop test questions. The unique and varied OE systems presently used on hybrid vehicles make it difficult to establish a generic test. The OEMs test their dealer techs on the unique HEV systems and components they service. But for the aftermarket, the field is wide.
Finally, it costs tens of thousands of dollars to develop a statistically valid testing program. Is the industry-at-large ready to support an HEV testing program?2
For the record, here’s ASE’s official statement on the matter: ”Presently ASE is keeping tabs on the market penetration of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) plus service/repair developments for HEVs in the U.S. The market must mature to the point that enough technicians have been trained and sufficiently experienced in servicing hybrid vehicles before an HEV exam can be successful.
“ASE is currently studying market developments and gathering information from hybrid technician SMEs at ASE sponsored focus groups/exploratory workshops. If it turns out that the industry needs an HEV test, ASE will offer it.”