By: John Brunner, Arizona Chapter Life Member
In an effort to avoid a shocking experience, I am offering a few comments and opinions about Hybrid vehicles, both passenger cars and trucks. Recently I have had the privilege of attending several extended sessions on Hybrid Vehicles. You will recall that I brought Dr. Mark Quarto to the valley on July 9, 2003 for what was, I believe, the first training provided to RMFMA on hybrid technology.
I remind you that my knowledge and understanding in no way compares to that of Mark. I would encourage you to use my comments as a springboard to do research before considering purchase, operation, or service of hybrid vehicles in your fleet.
First, let me discuss some horror stories, which have already occurred. Number one on the hit parade is a technician or lot attendant driving a hybrid vehicle to a stall for service. With most hybrid vehicles the engine will shut off when the brakes stop the car. Under pressure to get to the next task the driver hears the engine shut down, believes it is shut off, and opens the door. As they leave, the vehicle moves forward into the bench and tool box or backwards into whatever may stop the movement. This has already happened over 100 times in shops.
Part of the problem is that there are no special DOT standards for standard Hybrid vehicle control systems. You may depend on all of them being different. Some master disconnect devices are located in the front of the rear luggage compartment and require class “0” insulated gloves rated at 1000 volts. These gloves have printed expiration dates and must be re-certified every 6 months. I also recommend the use of leather gloves (to avoid puncture) with a cotton liner to manage perspiration, although this can add substantially to shop expense.
As a suggestion, down load or obtain a copy of the owners manual for the vehicle you are considering. The manual will outline procedures that can injure or kill, damage expensive components, or void warranty on high dollar replacement parts.
I have listed below some other potential issues that you may want to consider:
Lastly, the other area of concern I have is life cycle cost. Seven years from now will this vehicle require replacement of the high voltage battery? Will remanufactured units be available at a reduced price? What about the special tools and training required? One tool everyone is going to need is a Fluke Model 1587 meter for high voltage insulation testing. Special scan tools will be needed. This is just the beginning.
I hope that I have made a case for the need for some attention to this matter. Please feel free to contact me a firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-969-4307 if you want to beat me up or ask some questions.
The FleetPros Blog is written and moderated by the Business Manager with contributions from the membership and Business Services Team.