One of my favorite movie lines of all time, and one that I quote often, is Chevy Chase in Fletch when he is posing as an airplane mechanic and he is asked by a real airplane technician, and I paraphrase, "What do you need ball bearings for?" To which Fletch replies, "Aww, come on guys, it's so simple. Perhaps you need a refresher course. It's all ball bearings these days! Now you prepare that Fetzer valve with some 3-in-1 oil and some gauze pads." Classic. I stroll around the shop shouting, "It's all ball bearings these days" daily and it never makes me not smile. But, it's not ball bearings, it's batteries. That is the line that keeps running through my head, "It's all batteries these days."
I recently sat in on a conference all about electric vehicles, which was to me as exciting as it comes. There is so much to these cars and yet so little. I love the reduction in emissions, the quiet performance, the self-driving options. An internal combustion engine (ICE) has over 6,000 parts and the electric cars have a few hundred. That, my friends, is incredible. Am I scared this car will drive me out of business? No. I want to be a part of the evolution more than anything. There is a reason I named my second shop, Automotive EVolution and capitalized the EV in our new logo. These cars are just hitting the aftermarket repair world and we must be prepared, because over the next ten years there will not just be evolution, but revolution.
Batteries are ever changing and becoming better and better. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I am known for my battery oracular at my shop, constantly reiterating that we must know what is coming down the pipe. We must train and educate ourselves on batteries. To do this we start with the simple existing battery that cars use as the one heading this article (thanks for the picture Napa...I figured I could use it since we are a Napa Auto Center and buy so much stuff from you...don't sue). This is a wet-cell battery using lead-acid technology. This is essentially a series of metal plates immersed in water, sulfuric acid and electrolytes. We've been using this type of battery for years and years and it's fairly easy to understand. I won't expound here, you can Google it and get much more detailed answers than I can give, from experts who know what they're talking about. I got a "D" in Chemistry.
Hybrid batteries are typically Nickel Metal Hydride which use stored Nickel and Hydrogen and which I'm sure you've seen shortened to NiMH. These are composed of series of cells that can last a long time. And when they fail, can be rebuilt by removing the small malfunctioning cell packs and performing a service called "rebalancing". The more recent plug-in hybrids use Lithium Ion batteries which are the same types used in laptops and other electronic devices. But, obviously on a much larger scale. Hydrogen cell batteries are even cooler, with greater storage capabilities than Lithium Ion, but on the downside, they explode kinda easy. Elon thinks they're stupid, but whatever Elon, what do you know? Oh...
Anyway, these batteries are being put in all sorts of amazing things besides cars. Drones are one of the more unbelievable things coming about and it's all I can do not to make my shops drone repair facilities. Don't believe me? Check out "Ehang".
In my industry I've advised my staff that the time to understand and work on batteries is now! So, we have dedicated ourselves to that feat. It's not easy technology, but if we aren't a part of it, we will be left in the dust.