What about roadside assistance for electric cars? AA and JLR make a plan for SA

By Motoring Staff Time of article published Mar 29, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - It’s going to be a long time before electric cars become a common sight on South African roads, but as a small number of customers start buying in to the new era of motoring, there is a need to ensure that these vehicles can be adequately serviced in times of needs.

Of particular importance is roadside assistance when the vehicle is stranded. The high-voltage batteries, for instance, could potentially pose a safety hazard for responders and even the simple act of changing a wheel needs to be done with consideration for the chassis-mounted batteries.

To that end, Jaguar Land Rover has teamed up with the Automobile Association to train a group of Line Managers on EV-specific roadside assistance and vehicle recovery. JLR’s Training Academy in Pretoria opened its doors to the AA to share its technical expertise on a range of electrified vehicles, and most of the procedures taught are also applicable to other battery-powered cars offered by other manufacturers.

Particularly important to the Line Managers was the procedure of jump-starting a fully electric vehicle. In an instance where an EV’s small 12-volt battery (similar to those in any car) runs flat due to prolonged standstill, it’s possible to boost this small battery in order for the more powerful high-voltage battery to begin recharging the low-voltage system.

The group was tasked with safely entering and jump-starting an unresponsive vehicle which relies on electricity to unlock doors, release bonnet latches and disable security systems. Instructions were also given on how to manually override drive selectors and electronic handbrakes in order to pull an EV onto a flatbed tow truck in neutral.

Although the process of changing an EV’s flat tyre is essentially the same as with any vehicle, the AA was trained on the importance of safe lifting points with consideration that many EV high-voltage batteries are located low in the floor where jacks could damage them.

Furthermore, useful information on the importance of colour-labelling, such as bright orange high-voltage cables and any components tagged with yellow warnings, was also imparted to the Line Managers, along with basic lessons in recharging procedures. These included tips on the various messages a vehicle sends via coloured lights near its charging port, the differences between AC and DC cables, and the fact that EVs should never be charged with extension cords or multi-adapters.

“I’m a qualified mechanic with over 30 years’ experience, and my technical knowledge dates back to simple engines with carburettors. As our industry transitions into a new era of electrification, it’s important that the services the AA offer keep up mobility trends,” said AA Line Manager Benson Matshazi.

“Though we’ve only just embarked on this journey, we value the information shared by Jaguar Land Rover, and we’re now in a better position to handle our customers’ changing needs.”

AA CEO Willem Groenewald further emphasised the importance of staying at the cutting edge of electric mobility to service the needs of all of its customers.

“Jaguar Land Rover’s training provided useful practical knowledge for our staff,” Groenewald said. “We are always learning and improving our skills – all with the customer in mind – so this training was timely and important for us.”

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