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Ensuring the reliability of electric vehicles is integral to them becoming a viable alternative to internal combustion engines. Data shows that as the number of electric cars on our roads increases, so too does the scale of battery faults. The process of repairing batteries to extend battery life is fraught with complexity and must be done with an exceptional degree of precision to arrive at a fault-free repair. Advancements in battery technology and rising power density requirements complicate matters even further.
If this wasn’t challenging enough, the need to carry out fault free repairs, as EVs move from a niche product to the mass market, raises important questions about repair infrastructure and how it can cope with growing scale requirements. Ensuring the safety of technicians, vehicles, and workstations throughout the repair process also remains a critical challenge for the industry.
These factors make it untenable to rely solely on human technicians. Here we discuss why we believe the optimal repair process combines the flexibility and dexterity of human technicians with the precise, reliable, data-driven capability of technology.
Safety is paramount when handling EV batteries. Even the slightest deviation from safety protocols can put the operation at risk, which could have major implications when dealing with high voltages. Human beings can be given extensive training on health and safety, but even this cannot fully account for a potential lapse in concentration or momentary distraction. Any kind of risk is unacceptable, and technology provides a vital check and balance to ensure every single safety measure is being followed.
Autocraft’s unique process, which is based on our patented Augmented Reality (AR) and LiDAR technology, is the first industrialised repair process for EV batteries available on the market. The system automatically alerts technicians of any non-compliance with safety procedures, prompting an automatic shutdown until it is resolved. The unique technology can detect even the smallest detail, including failure to wear the correct PPE, keeping technicians accountable and preserving the precise conditions needed for the operation to be carried out safely.
The benefits of using technology to achieve total process control also extend into the area of quality.
In a garage, the success of the entire repair process is largely determined by the skill of the individual technician. Armed with only basic testing equipment to detect faults and assess battery health, there are likely to be deviations from the optimal repair process, all of which can add up. By failing to address the root cause of faults, garages can only tackle the symptoms, which greatly increases the rate of repeat failures.
It goes without saying that repeat failures are hugely costly for OEMs. On a much broader scale, they undermine confidence in electric vehicles, underlining the need for an almost scientific approach.
Autocraft’s patented ‘no-fault-forward’ ARIA (Augmented Reality Interactive Assembly) system, developed in-house, incorporates cameras, projectors, and wireless tools to provide exceptional process control. The system is programmed to issue technicians with clear instructions on how to complete each step of the operation to the required standard, and in the correct sequence.
Originally designed for the remanufacture of ICE engines, the technology was adapted for the Autocraft REVIVE™ range of EV services and is the bedrock of an industrialised repair process that will be required to cater for mounting scale requirements. Moreover, automatically equipping technicians with the right information in a timely manner reduces thinking time, making the process more streamlined and efficient.
The use of DC tooling provides additional real-time insights to ensure equipment is being used to optimal effect. Any deviation, even at the level of the torque of a single screw, is automatically detected, stopping the process, and provides a level of precision that is virtually impossible to achieve without the use of technology. Our no-fault forward philosophy has allowed us to carry out thousands of EV battery repairs with zero repeat failures stemming from faults within the manufacturing and subsequent repair process. Nothing less can be deemed acceptable if electric vehicles are to truly fulfil their potential.
When relying exclusively on human technicians, it is impossible to document every step of the process. This ultimately leads to repeat failure, since there is no way to evaluate where there may have been an error within the process. The collection of data via the use of DC tools, AR and LiDAR ensures a full audit trail of every granular detail of the repair process, which is stored via cloud-based software. In an era of electromobility, where automakers are increasingly judged on vehicle reliability, this provides them with an added layer of protection, instilling confidence in the robustness of the procedure.
Flexibility within the repair process is also essential. Due to cost-constraints and viability, it is virtually impossible to fully automate repair and remanufacturing processes, further proof that a dual approach which utilises the dexterity of humans, and capabilities of machines is required.
A decade ago, there were only a small number of EV models and differing battery packs, so a simple repeatable repair process was more feasible. Yet today, there are nearly 100 different models and part numbers, along with many generation levels and variations, thanks to continuing technological advancements.
If we were to fully automate the repair process, robots would need to be reprogrammed constantly to accommodate all the changes in every single pack. However, a human, can apply their knowledge of the differences within each battery to identify where there are small variances, such as a bolt moving only 5mm on different generations, and adjust the process accordingly.
Skills shortages, growing complexity in battery designs, battery degradation, and the expected future scale of EV repair requirements, require industrialised EV battery solutions. An entirely manual process cannot provide the level of precision, accuracy and efficiency needed to support the future success of the wider EV industry.
Making the most of the flexibility and experience of human technicians is vital, while the use of technology ensures the process of carrying out repairs is safe, effective, and traceable, all of which are crucial to eliminating the risk of errors and the reputational and financial costs associated with repeat failures.