Refinishing Electric Vehicles
By Jason Garfoot, senior technical advisor, Global Finishing Solutions
Electric vehicles are posing challenges for auto body shops and collision repair centers when it comes to the paint stage of a repair, as many electric cars cannot be baked in a paint booth with temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for this is the electric battery.
Currently, in a typical shop process, the high-voltage system must be disconnected when working on electric vehicles for the safety of technicians. This disables the battery’s cooling system, therefore making the vehicle’s high-voltage battery susceptible to overheating and damage, which shortens the life expectancy of the battery.
To prevent damage to electric car batteries during the paint process, many car manufacturers, such as Audi, Lexus, Tesla, Toyota and Volvo, have released position statements about baking temperatures for electric and hybrid cars. Most of these statements specify that a vehicle cannot be baked over a specific temperature, typically 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since electric vehicles cannot be cured in a normal paint booth bake cycle, technicians often use an extended low-bake cycle. Although effective, it doubles the bake time, which significantly slows a shop and reduces overall throughput. Shops may also use an express, air-dry or low-bake clear coat, which typically sacrifice gloss and durability for speed. This is especially problematic when working on luxury vehicles.
Electric IR for Electric Cars
The best solution for curing electric vehicles without causing damage or reducing — and instead increasing — throughput is short wave electric infrared (IR) curing technology. Systems using this technology, such as REVO Accelerated Curing Systems from Global Finishing Solutions (GFS), provide a safe solution for curing electric vehicles.
Short wave electric IR technology penetrates directly to the surface of the substrate — whether metal, plastic or another material — to heat it and cure the coating from the inside out. Whereas a paint booth bake cycle heats the entire booth and the vehicle inside it, REVO Systems concentrate heat to only the panels that need curing. While the temperature on the exterior of the vehicle may reach 200 degrees with REVO, the interior of the vehicle will remain below 100 degrees. This prevents the battery from overheating, protecting the vehicle and technician. REVO Systems are also safe to be used on vehicles without having to remove side curtain airbags or child safety seats.
By rapidly curing fillers and coatings, REVO Systems allow shops to increase throughput by up to 80 percent. Drying time for both the prep and paint phases of repair can be reduced by hours with electric IR technology, which frees up valuable, skilled technicians to accomplish additional repairs.
Improvements in Quality
In addition to safety and efficiency, short wave electric IR technology offers significant quality advantages over conventional curing methods, gas-fired IR, and especially refinishing methods that use an express-style clear coat. Since short wave IR cures coatings from the inside out, it offers a fast, complete cure with just one pass per coating. While REVO Systems produce mostly short waves to heat the surface, they also produce a small percentage of medium waves, which work to cure the top layers at the same time.
There is no guessing as to whether or not a coating is completely cured when using REVO Systems. This reduces rework, which can slow down your shop and decrease customer satisfaction. Plus, with REVO Systems, you can reassemble and polish cars immediately after they leave the booth, instead of waiting on a lengthy cool-down period that is required after traditional baking.
Electric Vehicles Rising in Popularity
There will be a projected 125 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide by 2030 — a drastic rise from 3 million in 2017, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Most car manufacturers are also actively working on expanding their electric vehicle offerings. Mazda and Subaru will release their first hybrid vehicles in 2019, while brands like Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volkswagen have expressed intent to build electric or hybrid versions of all of their vehicle models within the next 12 years. BMW, Ford, GM, Hyundai-Kia, Infiniti, Nissan and Volvo have also announced plans to expand their electric and hybrid vehicles in coming years. Additionally, a bill prohibiting new sales of gas-powered vehicles in California by 2040 awaits the state legislature.
As the trend toward electric cars and hybrids continues to increase, it is already having a significant impact on the automotive repair industry. To refinish electric vehicles, collision repair and auto body shops may need to adapt their processes and equipment. Short wave electric IR technology allows shops to safely repair electric vehicles, while offering significant improvements in quality and efficiency. Plus, REVO Systems can be easily implemented into a shop’s current layout and processes.
To learn more about how REVO Systems can improve your paint shop and the final finish on electric vehicles, visit revocuring.com.