Electric vehicle roadside call-outs are rising, with training and regulation racing to keep up

Roadside assistant patrols across Australia are facing an increased demand to get more electric vehicles back on the road as they become more popular. 

Thankfully, crews working across the country say most electric vehicle (EV) problems are minor.

In South Australia, RAA’s general manager automotive services Dorothy Nycz said EV call-outs had increased by about 25 per cent in the past financial year.

“Most of these call-outs are for minor issues such as flat tyres and 12V auxiliary batteries — the battery that starts your car — which is similar for internal combustion engine vehicles,” she said.

“RAA’s patrols are trained to work with EVs at the roadside to get them back on the road, just like petrol and diesel vehicles.”

EV training for first responders is currently underway. (ABC News: Elizabeth Pickering)

In Queensland and Victoria, roadside assistance crews are also tending to similar EV call-out issues.

“Interestingly, the most common call-outs for EVs are the same as they are for any other vehicle and include discharged auxiliary batteries, flat tyres and keys locked inside the car,” an RACQ spokesperson said.

“RACQ rarely receives call-outs for a discharged traction battery, as most EV owners are highly aware of their battery levels and receive multiple warnings from the vehicle system.”

In May, 6.8 per cent of new vehicles sold in South Australia were electric, up from 2.2 per cent in 2022.

EV training underway

The Electric Vehicle Council said many TAFEs and registered training organisations offered programs related to EV maintenance.

“As motor vehicle technology evolves, the knowledge and technical training of RACQ’s patrol teams evolves with it,” an RACQ spokesperson said.

“We have been involved in EV training via hybrid cars for at least 15 years, therefore our patrol officers have product familiarisation on EVs to the same level that they have on petrol and diesel cars.”

Photo of a motor part that with someone holding a spanner

A review into a Queensland Act could affect who can fix electric vehicles.  (Supplied)

Who is fit to fix an EV?

When EVs need work beyond lost keys and flat tyres, there’s still debate about the safest way to get them back on the road.

Queensland’s Electrical Safety Act 2002 is under review and could impact who can work on EVs.

Recommendations from the review consider requiring appropriately licensed electrical workers to carry out the electrical work on the electrical components of the vehicle when an EV requires on-road breakdown work to ensure safety of owners, operators, the community and first responders.

Three cars in mechanic workshop all on hoists

Many mechanics are already safely working with hybrids and EVs.  (ABC Gold Coast: Danielle Mahe)

The recommendations also consider requiring appropriately licensed electrical workers to carry out the work on the electrical components when the EV is serviced or repaired.

A profile image of Ross De Rango, EVC

Ross De Rango from the Electric Vehicle Council. (Supplied: Ross De Rango)

The Electric Vehicle Council worries the recommendations could put extra burden on mechanics.

“Someone who has spent years training to be a mechanic would then need to spend an additional four years getting qualified as a licensed sparkie,” head of energy and infrastructure Ross De Rango said.

“We don’t think that’s entirely appropriate.

“It would be really problematic if regulations like that were to come into place because the mechanics who are out there today are doing this kind of work on hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles already, and doing it safely.

“A good outcome would either look like an existing regulatory arrangement, where there’s an Australian Standard and training and competency, or restricted electrical licence, like plumbers with hot water services.”

First responders

Training is being rolled out to some first responders to help them safely work at scenes involving EVs.

Hazards associated with EVs for first responders include high-voltage electricity stored in vehicle battery packs, thermal runways, hazardous materials, secondary ignition, and AC/DC electrical hazards from connected charging equipment and infrastructure.

Five men in navy blue uniforms stand in a group.

NSW fire fighters have training to work at scenes involving alternative fuelled vehicles.  (ABC News: Grace Burmas)

Lack of sound in EVs to indicate that the vehicle is on can also lead to unexpected vehicle movement if the accelerator is hit.

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Acting Deputy Commissioner Field Operations, Trent Curtin, said there was an existing training program for firefighters to respond to EVs.

“As the uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles increases in the community, and our firefighters’ knowledge and understanding of these technologies grow, we continue to adapt our approach,” he said.

“FRNSW is currently working with industry partners, education providers and other emergency services agencies to develop a broader suite of training tools, which can quickly and easily be rolled out across the emergency services workforce.”

Trent Curtain

FRNSW’s Trent Curtin says they are developing a broader suite of training tools around EVs.  (ABC News: Tom Hancock)

Fire Rescue Victoria also said firefighters were trained to respond to incidents associated with renewable energy technologies.

“During an emergency response, FRV firefighters apply a methodical risk-based approach to ensure both responder and community safety are not compromised,” an FRV spokesperson said. 

“FRV works closely with its partners both nationally and internationally to ensure any research and technological advances are used to inform and improve its contemporary training programs.”

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