Preparing for the future

How are commercial vehicle workshops being future-proofed ahead of the anticipated boom in electric vehicles before 2035? Tom Austin-Morgan reports

While the deadline for an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK has been pushed back from 2030 to 2035, the position on heavier commercial vehicles is unchanged. That means, the government will end the sale of new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) less than or equal to 26 tonnes from 2035 – and all new non-zero emission HGVs from 2040.

The number of electric or hybrid electric (EVs or HEVs) vans and commercial vehicles – including buses and refuse trucks – has risen sharply in recent years. However, with the ban of new non-zero emission HGVs set to be introduced in a little over a decade, the workshops that service, maintain and repair commercial vehicles will be seeing a drop off in traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and an increase in volumes of EVs and HEVs.

“All of our dealer network is signed up to become electric truck centres,” states Adam Bennett, EV and sustainability manager, DAF Trucks. “There are various standards that they must adhere to and sign off on by the end of 2024 – quite a few are around commercial workshop capability. Also, there’ll be more training for technicians to be at the appropriate standards to work on zero-emission vehicles.”

Recently, Harris DAF opened a new, purpose-built five-bay workshop, complete with ATF capability at a site in Grays, Essex. Planning exists to double the offering to 10 bays. The facility will initially perform 50 vehicle tests a night, with potential ramp-up to 100 at full capacity.

Managing director at Harris DAF, Gary Carpenter, says: “With electric vehicles beginning to enter the market in growing numbers, now is an exciting time to embark on a workshop career.”

There are nationally accredited courses, such as the IMI Electric Vehicle Accreditation (Level 3), however DAF compounds this offering with its own product training, specific to its electric HGVs. Once the technicians have completed both courses, they can then be considered an EV-ready technician.

Another requirement for DAF is to provide 180kW high-power chargers within the workshop on dedicated bays and externally. Getting the extra power to the site that is required for the additional demand of EVs is a challenge that is bespoke to each individual operation depending on location and what the current capacity and draw is for the site.

“All of our 34 selling dealers that have signed up to be electric truck centres have had surveys and feasibility analysis completed on their premises,” explains Bennett. “They will go through the processes of engagement with local energy providers or DNOs [distribution network operators] – in terms of submission of applications – and work through a timeline to ascertain how long those elements will take and what the costs involved are to achieve it.”

Aside from the challenges that come with new software and connected services, the biggest hurdle for DAF has been the geographical locations themselves. “Space is always at a premium,” Bennett explains. “The challenges have been around where you put this fixed infrastructure to open it up to as many customers as possible in the short term, the strategic decisions that lie around that decision with regard to health and safety – and how that’s a separate challenge.”

However, Bennett is confident that many of DAF’s dealers will achieve installation and standardisation by the end of this year, if not by the end of 2025, in accordance with the pathway set out by the standards.


For non-OEM workshops and garages there’s another issue: vehicle design. For the moment, chassis layouts are remaining the same as battery packs are added, but further developments in design may change the shape, layout and weight distribution of the vehicles.

“We’re looking to develop our mobile column lifts to perhaps pick vehicles up at different points instead of just at the wheels,” explains Derrick Peel, area sales manager of Stertil-Koni. “It could be a very long process and sometimes it’s more reactive than proactive, depending on the details we can get from the vehicle manufacturers.”

As vehicle design changes from where and how to store battery packs to saving energy through aesthetics – including lowering the distance between the base of the chassis and the road surface as well as changing the design of the chassis – there will be an effect on the space needed in workshops for drive-on excess onto different lifting mechanisms. “When we’ve designed our four-post and sky lifts, we’ve developed ways of being able to retrofit drive-on ramps so that if vehicles do get lower, we won’t have to change the whole lift,” Peel explains. “On our sky lift, we can add sections to make the ramp longer. We can also retrofit extensions to column lifts, which reduces capacity but allows us to pick up wider-bodied vehicles. Vehicles such as buses can have batteries stacked in the back, in the floor or in the roof. So an inspection pit in the floor of the garage to look at vehicles won’t cover all future possibilities – there’s going to have to be different ways of lifting and accessing the batteries.”

The key to keeping workshops (especially smaller sites) optimised seems to be to make them modular, having more mobile column lifts that can be moved between bays and used in different ways depending on the job they’re needed for.

Of course, new ICE vehicles aren’t going away just yet – and will remain part of a workshop’s core business for many years. Even after the ban on ICE-only vehicles, there will remain certain ‘legacy’ vehicles. “We’ve got Euro 7 diesel emission regulations coming through to contend with towards the end of the decade,” says Bennett. “It’s about preparation rather than segregating zero-emission from ICE – and making sure that we can accommodate the EVs and are equipped to support our customers in the right way as they filter through.”

Peel goes further, saying that not very much will change for most workshops as most servicing focuses not only on the engine but the running gear, wheel bearings, airbags and suspension which are all still present in any vehicle type. “You need a workshop that is able to work on anything at any point,” he reasons. “Making a dedicated area just for one specific type of vehicle just

cuts off space – and one thing that workshops never have enough of is space!”

That’s to say nothing of hydrogen, which has been touted by many as a more viable green fuel for long-distance HGVs and other heavy vehicles than battery power. However, market demand will be the deciding factor in the volume of EVs and/or hydrogen vehicles on the roads in the coming years – as well as infrastructure. “There’s going to be a number of different ways of fuelling the industry,” predicts Peel. “Hydrogen will play a key role in long-distance transportation, whereas electric will be used for shorter journeys.”

The other major barrier is total cost of ownership, according to Bennett: “There aren’t many financial incentives from government to become an early adopter and transition to EVs. There’s the Plug-In Van and Truck Grant, which is capped at a certain number of vehicles – and they must be put through approval testing to qualify, which all OEMs are doing with their zero-emission vehicles. But, for many, it’s an investment rather than an obvious financial solution.

“It’s about drilling down into each operation and looking at what their use cases are for these vehicles,” he adds. “That means understanding the mileages and the years that they intend them to be in service – and pulling together a commercial proposition that demonstrates when you can get

to parity at least. Then it will become a tangible solution.”

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