With the growing diffusion of zero-emission vehicles, there is also the need to develop a service network for batteries. Among the most active in this perspective is Volkswagen which has thought of specialized centers
Decades of motorization have taught us that the most complex part of a vehicle is the engine: a mass of components in constant motion to be repaired in the event of a breakdown. With the electric car the roles change: the engine is all in all simple but it is the battery that is very complex and expensive. As if in a car with thermal propulsion the most difficult part to maintain was the fuel tank. Accumulators can also fail, although this is quite rare. On the other hand, they are more likely to be damaged by large or small bumps on the roads. And with an increasing number of electrified vehicles (hybrid and electric) on the road, the question arises: can the batteries be repaired? Yes and it already happens on work vehicles such as forklifts, but it must be considered that electric cars house the accumulators in the floor, in a less favorable position. These are then complex, equipped with air conditioning systems to keep them at the right operating temperature. If the replacement is already a specialist operation, the repair is even more so.
the specialized centers of VOLKSWAGEN
The health of the traction battery must be monitored constantly, and at the slightest problem it requires rapid intervention to avoid more serious damage. The Volkswagen group has operated two dedicated battery maintenance centers in Erfurt and Wolfsburg, with specialized technicians and trainers teaching the authorized repair network how to intervene on electrified vehicles. And soon a third will be added in Nurtingen. An urgent need for builders, because these are interventions that require specific preparation and attention. A battery has high voltages (from 400 to 800 Volts) which primarily require dedicated equipment such as antistatic lifting platforms. Workshop equipment also changes: alongside the wrenches there are voltage measuring instruments, precision instruments and safety guards. Every Volkswagen service center in Germany (currently around 1,850) accepts electric cars and is qualified for their maintenance and repair. There are service centers specialized in battery repair, at the moment there are 265 but the number is expected to rise to 450 by the end of 2021.
diagnosis and quarantine
When a Volkswagen service center accepts an electric vehicle that they suspect may have a battery failure, they perform a diagnosis as the first step. This allows you to determine the “State of Health” (SoH) of the accumulator, a value that quantifies the residual capacity. Basically, how much of the original storage capacity can a battery still provide after a certain number of years. The rate at which it loses capacity largely depends on how it is maintained: a battery works best with a charge level of between 30 and 70 percent, an interval at which it wears less. For this reason, Volkswagen electric vehicles are equipped with software that can limit the maximum battery charge. If the diagnosis reveals a problem, the workshop will direct the vehicle to one of the authorized centers for assistance on accumulators. In the event of a car involved in an accident, experts also check the battery casing for deformations and leaks. If a potential risk is discovered, the car is moved to a quarantine area, where it remains isolated and monitored. Subsequent repairs depend on the test result. Deformations can occur in places where there are no sensitive parts and there is enough space for the dent to necessarily be a problem. For example, the batteries of the electric range ID. they have a “sandwich” structure in which the underbody protection and the cooling system protect the battery cells, preserving them.
replacements and repairs
The failure of individual cells within a battery module can be easily diagnosed: if a cell fails, the capacity of the module is still 50-66% due to the parallel wiring of the cells, but those functioning in the module are forced to work more. Consequently they reach a higher temperature with a lower voltage. If a cell is defective, the complete module is replaced. However, the individual battery cells cannot be replaced. In the case of Volkswagen ID, the Meb battery consists of seven to twelve modules, depending on the size. In general, in case of accident damage or technical failure, the battery modules of electric cars can be replaced. Manufacturers such as Volkswagen are already developing a dedicated service network, with appropriate procedures, tools and training of technical personnel. One question remains: how much does it cost to repair a battery? The differences between models and specific cases do not yet allow us to establish an average cost, but according to the experience gained so far by the German group it is certainly worth replacing one or two modules if the battery still has 70% or more of its remaining capacity. . If the modules to be replaced are more, or if the capacity is lower, it is necessary to think about replacing the accumulator.
5 October – 09:17
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