The CEI Group has worked with its 4,000-shop network to repair more than 1,200 electric vehicles, including this Chevrolet Volt. Photo: The CEI Group

The CEI Group has worked with its 4,000-shop network to repair more than 1,200 electric vehicles, including this Chevrolet Volt. Photo: The CEI Group

As an increasing number of companies utilize electric vehicles (EVs) in their fleets, vehicle breakdowns are inevitable. And, when a breakdown occurs, The CEI Group, an accident and risk management company for commercial, truck, and government fleets is prepared.

The company handled its first all-electric accident claim in August 2011. The company hit 1,000 all-electric fleet vehicle repairs in September 2013, and today has worked with its 4,000-shop network to complete more than 1,200 EV repairs.

“This constitutes more than $3 million in repairs on electric vehicles alone,” said Bob Glose, CEI’s director of operations.

EV Use a Growing Fleet Trend

CEI provides services for a broad scope of fleet vehicles, including government, trucking, and every imaginable sedan fleet in-between.

“Not all of these fleets have embraced or utilized the electric models, but it is a trend we see growing,” Glose stated. Top models used in the fleets that CEI services are the Chevrolet Volt and Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Energi. But, what makes these repairs different from traditional fleet vehicles?

“If the electrical system isn’t involved, a repair on an all-electric vehicle can be just like one for any other fleet vehicle,” Glose said. “But, when the electrical system is involved, it’s a different matter, both in terms of expense and repair time.”

Avoiding Fatal Repair Risks

The electrical system on an EV must be shut down before any repairs are made, or the repair technician runs the risk of a fatal shock, according to Greg Neuman, CEI’s manager of Quality Control.

“EV body repairs are the same as when working on a gasoline-powered fleet vehicle, but the first thing with most repairs on an electric vehicle is you have to power the vehicle down and pull the main fuse on the hybrid battery,” he explained.

Neuman added that technicians must be careful when handling any electrical components even after the vehicle is powered down. “If electrical components are damaged and the vehicle will not run, most times you have to bring in a specialist to diagnose the issue,” he said.

Advanced Technology Requires Specialized Expertise

Initially, finding the right people to perform the repairs on the electronic components was the greatest challenge for CEI.

 “When the Chevrolet Volt first came to market, there were a lot of unknowns,” Neuman said. “But, as the new technology continues to increase out in the field, more highly trained technicians are available to troubleshoot and perform the repairs.”

Neuman added that, as long as the correct replacement parts are used, the vehicles should run effectively.

“However, there could be long-range issues where the vehicle’s battery just wears out,” he said. “We do not know how long this is yet. Some estimates are 10 years. But, thanks to EV battery life advancement, the prices of replacement batteries, which initially ran as much as several thousands of dollars, have fallen significantly.”