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.”
A word from the pros about HEV diagnostics
Assuming a technician has been properly trained and is ready to service hybrids, what about the proper tools and information? In the last issue of ASP we discussed essential safety equipment. What about vehicle specific information and diagnostic? At least one supplier (Toyota) offers independent shops access to factory-level hybrid vehicle diagnostics firmware and software, ECU reprogramming calibrations, repair data, wiring diagrams and TSBs. Identifix’ Direct-Hit service is also included. These are essentially the same diagnostic tools that Toyota dealer techs use every day.
Let’s face it: Toyotas make up the lion’s share of hybrid vehicles out there, and many independent shop owners are using Toyota’s Techstream for diagnosing hybrid electric vehicles. An interface cable connects the vehicle directly to the Techstream tough book from Snap-on.
Alternatively, Toyota’s Techstream Lite software is said to perform 95+% of all functions the official factory scan tool uses. Techstream software is available on a short term (two day) basis, or a long term (one year) subscription basis. The software is loaded into a shop’s dedicated diagnostic laptop or PC.
When used with an approved high-performance vehicle network pass-thru interface (such as the Mongoose(r) Toyota MFC), a laptop computer and Toyota’s Professional Diagnostic subscription (available on the Toyota TIS website), shop owners report they have a full-blown Toyota maintenance diagnostic system.
Are you now ready to service hybrid electric vehicles? We hope the information provided in the HEV series has given you encouragement to get started.
You may not be rebuilding high voltage battery packs (like a few aftermarket shops are doing), but you’ll want to offer at least basic HEV service to your customers, or they might take all their vehicles to another service shop.
In a future issue, we’ll discuss how to service hybrids safely, and we’ll introduce you to all-important hybrid vehicle Emergency Response Guide(s) used both by first responders and by collision repair and vehicle service technicians. In the meantime, we hope this information on hybrid electric vehicles has proven helpful, hard hitting and on target for your needs.
1. See Are You Ready for Hybrids? Part 2 in Auto Service Professional’s September/October 2011 issue.
2. Creating a statistically valid testing program is expensive, and it demands time, effort and expertise. Sustained industry support through funding and promotional efforts is a must if a certification program is to last the test of time. Technicians would likely be upset if they spent time and effort to become credentialed, only to find out the testing program disappeared after one or two years.
A note to HEV instructors, technicians and training providers
An instructor who is now teaching (or planning to teach) hybrid vehicle service will certainly find the hybrid-electric vehicle SME developed criteria (published in a previous issue of Auto Service Professional) helpful.
Using this information, you can perform your own informal “self-evaluation” to see if your training (or training publications) cover at least the procedures considered crucial to HEV diagnostic and repair service. ASE not only issues credentials to technicians deemed knowledgeable and capable of servicing vehicles, they also issue credentials to schools offering technical automotive training programs.
Before ASE certification is granted to a semester-long training program, the program must first go through a self-evaluation using SME peer-developed “standards,” followed by an on-site evaluation.
In-service technician training providers can earn ASE’s CASE (Continuing Automotive Service Education) training credential offered through the Automotive Training Managers Council. Technicians who are looking for industry-approved service training should first look for the CASE Training Provider logo for an assurance of getting quality training.
Light hybrid vehicle aftermarket service training providers
See below for some of those who are offering aftermarket service training on hybrid vehicles. Alternatively, do a Web search for yourself by seeking “hybrid vehicle service training.”
The following training providers are known to offer instructor led training (“ILT”) hands-on training, one-day seminars, evening clinics, and/or Web-based training for technicians desiring to learn how to service light-duty hybrid vehicles.
NOTE: The information shown here is not a complete listing, nor should it be considered as an endorsement for these training providers.
Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC)
Offers week long hands-on classes and Web-based instruction covering a variety of production hybrid vehicles. ACDC issues a “certification” to those who complete its courses.
Seminars and clinics. See the link below for CARQUEST’s course catalog.
Automotive Training Group (ATG)
From oil changes to scan tool captures, from brake jobs to bi-directional controls, this class will prepare you to confidently sell, service and repair these vehicles, and to make informed decisions about servicing the high voltage hybrid drive components as well.
ACDelco offers HEV clinics covering hybrid vehicle history, various HEV designs, HEV propulsion, energy storage and delivery, power transfer, controls and an overview of hybrid vehicle service.
Automotive Research and Design Co. (AR&D)
AR&D offers comprehensive hybrid vehicle classes, webinars and on-line training.
Live workshops for hybrid vehicle service training with four hour overview and eight hour hands on classes for techs who learn best by doing.
National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC)
NAFTC offers an array of alternative fuel, BEV and HEV week-long courses both in Morgantown, W.Va., and through various member schools at locations around the country.
Seminars and clinics are offered for service techs.
Veejer Enterprices offers specialized classes on vehicle electrical and electronics troubleshooting and has a hybrid vehicle electric drive training manual.