Tesla zero servicing presents ‘huge dangers’ for fleets

American electric vehicle maker Tesla recently posted a job advert on its website for a senior manager to be in charge of a new programme called ‘Zero Service’.

“At Tesla we believe that the best service is no service!” the post read. “We are looking for a highly motivated Senior Manager to join our Service Operations organization and lead the team responsible to identify and eliminate the reasons for our cars to require service.”

The idea of vehicles never having to visit workshops unless a fault is detected would present huge dangers for fleet operators, according to FleetCheck in the UK.

“This sounds like a very Tesla idea where the vision is perhaps racing ahead of the technology, and where the reality is a lot more complex and likely to remain so,” said Peter Golding, FleetCheck managing director.

“The fact is that, as all competent fleet operators know, employers are responsible for the safety of their employers behind the wheel of any vehicle being used on business.

“If Tesla says that its cars don’t need proactive servicing, where does the liability lie in the event of an accident caused by a mechanical fault? I’m guessing that they won’t want to admit cause.”

Golding said that precedents existed in the motor industry that could serve as a warning of lengthening the time spent out of workshops.

“Some years ago, when manufacturers introduced synthetic oils, they started to extend servicing intervals to 30-40,000 miles. However, most eventually moved them back to an annual servicing model and intervals of around 20,000 miles.

“A key reason was that this proved just too long for a vehicle to be out of a workshop because all kinds of other faults would develop in that time, some of them dangerous. Those cars and vans needed to be seen by technicians more regularly.”

Golding said that he understood the Tesla argument would be that there was less to go wrong on an EV than and ICE car, and that future fault systems would recognise any issues, but remained unconvinced.

“For example, even with good diagnostic systems, you could have a largely unpredictable issue arise, such as the current pothole crisis. Cars with low profile tyres and sporty suspensions are crashing into sizeable holes in the road, sending shocks through the entire structure.

“Now, that might knock out the tracking but also the castor and camber, and affect wheel balance. There are a whole series of variables potentially affected.

“Any one of those issues could cause a car to mishandle or for potentially dangerous tyre wear to occur over time of a kind that it’s not easy for lay person to spot. How good would a fault tracking system be at spotting those errors?

“It is, of course, entirely possible that the rise of EVs means that vehicles start spending less time in workshops but I don’t yet see any evidence yet to suggest that there should be fewer actual workshop visits. Safety should remain the number priority for fleets and that still involves vehicles being regularly checked by experts.”

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