The Pandemic Changed Views on EVs

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Exhaust coming out of an SUV's tailpipe.

July 1, 2021—It's been widely reported that the COVID-19 pandemic made for better air quality in cities, due to fewer vehicles on the road as the usual commuters, shoppers, and others stayed home.

And while that effect may be fleeting—miles driven in the U.S. are expected to surge back up to pre-pandemic numbers, if not higher, as the summer goes on—drivers in North America took note of the drop in pollution and are keen to keep it up.

That's according to the Mitchell Q2 Trends Report, which was released by the technology and information company last month. The section titled "The Shift in Mobility Patterns" notes that users have turned away from shared transit and have moved out of city centers to the suburbs as a result of working from home, two factors that will bolster the need for personal vehicles in the years to come.

The section also notes a surge of interest in electric vehicles. That's according to polling data from McKinsey & Company, which found that 56 percent of North American respondents are more interested in purchasing a hybrid or EV because of the pandemic, with half of them saying they were "significantly more" interested.

One of the key drivers behind the increased interest, 19 percent of respondents said, was "recent air-quality improvements," which came in just behind "increased sustainability concerns," cited by 20 percent of respondents.

"This data—coupled with available government stimulus funds and incentive programs—suggests we may experience a more rapid uptake of alternative energy automobiles than previously anticipated," the report says.

The report's author, Ryan Mandell, director of claims performance for Mitchell's auto physical damage business unit, tells FenderBender that body shops should be ready.

"I think we're in for a boom for collision repair in 2022 when you see more vehicles on the road," he says.

That boom and the years to follow will include more and more EVs, Mandell says, meaning collision repairers should be getting prepared for electric vehicle repairs right now.

That will come down to understanding technology requirements for proper and safe repairs of EVs, alongside getting the training, tools and equipment, and know-how to repair them. 

Mandell also says collision repairers have a chance to set the tone with EV drivers.

"It's really an opportunity for repairers to be the knowledge expert, to set expectations with consumers," he says, noting for many of those consumers, it will be their first time owning an EV, and they'll be dealing with their first collision involving their EV.

For body shops, he says it's crucial to understand that the process of repairing an electric vehicle is new, from managing high-voltage batteries to changes in cycle times.

"This is a more intricate repair than the same pattern of damage on an internal combustion engine vehicle," Mandell says.


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