Q&A with Aaron Jones

Master Technician at Opus IVS

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How are you involved with Opus IVS, and what does it mean for the EV market?

IVS is our diagnostic support side of the company. We sell a range of scan tools and, while our scan tools are great, what’s really great about our system is that you have a bunch of dealer-trained technicians in the background. So myself, I’m the Tesla master tech. I was with Tesla for five years. I’ve been to Norway with Tesla. I’ve opened shops in Memphis. I spent a lot of time with that company. It really helps in the Opus world because now I’m getting to help aftermarket technicians when they struggle a little bit. The other really cool thing that Opus does is that they have a huge hand in the training world. All of our techs love to go out and teach these classes. We go to expos; we teach webinars. We love to do it. That’s huge, because we don’t really see a huge demand in the electric vehicle side of this.

How will the maintenance for EVs differ from traditional combustion engine cars?

It’s definitely a lot less maintenance. You take out the need to replace spark plugs, timing belts, oil changes. What we see being replaced annually are more of the environmental things — wiper blades, filters, tires. Tire maintenance is huge because you take a very heavy car — a model three can be close to 4,000 pounds while a Honda Civic is like 2,800 pounds — with unlimited performance, and they burn through tires. But as far as other fluids go, we’re seeing those maintenance schedules outliving the average first ownership of the vehicle.

Maintenance is going to be cheaper for the consumer in the long run, but it also adds a layer of responsibility.

Since our audience is mainly gear-manufacturing related, how do the gears that make up an EV differ from the combustion engine models?

It’s not necessarily that the gears they use are different. It’s more that they’re going bigger and a lot girthier. And there are just going to be less of them. When it comes down to electric vehicles, the gear set is in the drive motor, and that’s it. Most manufacturers use a sun gear that drives a counter shaft that drives the final gear, so you’ve got a section of up to a dozen gears maybe. They’ll use a gear to run the oil pump. But they’re going to have to be so much sturdier.

In some of these vehicles, the main motor gear has a max RPM of 20,000, and it’s almost instant. These are single speed gear-reduction units. But it takes a matter of three to four seconds to hit that RPM.

The Model S Performance, for example, has a gear that is 215 millimeters by 50 millimeters. It’s held to the motor by 16 14-millimeter bolts. It’s a massive gear. The differential is the most important aspect of putting power down in a car, and when that’s the only thing that electric vehicles have to put down that power, they’re going to make the gears as big as possible.

Do you think that with EVs, do you see a next level of precision needed for the gears opposed to what’s traditionally used now?

I think what I’m seeing more of is an advancement in how they’re reducing the gear — what they’re doing with the single speed transmission. The new Mustang Mach-E that just came out has a planetary gear set with two-stage pinion gears, and it is the first time I’ve ever heard of this. You have to time the pinion gears so that they splice correctly and the final drive works with the three phase AC induction motor because now we’re timing gears with basically a spinning barrel. The technology is really going to come in how are we setting up these gear systems to get the most performance and torque curve with either the lightest weight or the most durability.

What steps are being taken to ensure EV gears will be properly maintained?

The No. 1 killer of transmission fluid is heat. The hotter these transmissions get, the more often you need to change the transmission fluid. So as a byproduct of efficiency, manufacturers are trying to keep the drive motors as cold as possible. They just consume energy better. And the byproduct of keeping that drive unit cool is that you’re taking 20 to 40 degrees off of the transmission fluid you’re using. They’re doing that, and they’re making it an enclosed system, where the fluid is not traveling through lines. Basically, less is more; when you take a lot of the gears out of the equation, it helps keep them more maintained.

How do you see the gear industry keeping up with the change of pace that’s going to be involved with creating electric vehicles?

When I think back to electric vehicles, there are two things manufacturers should always keep in mind: lightweight and durability. Whenever you’re trying to make an advancement in the electric vehicle world, you need to figure out how you can make it less heavy for efficiency.

And how can we make it durable? We don’t need tooth slipping. There’s nothing belt driven in these vehicles, so it all comes down to gear-on-gear connections. So as far as what they can do, I would just say making it lighter and stronger.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention that we didn’t talk about?

Opus IVS will be holding a new Master Class training program for automotive technicians, which will help technicians deepen their expertise in areas, such as Tesla Service Information and Diagnostics, ADAS Service, and European-make diagnostics. 

MORE INFO  www.opusivs.com/news-updates/press-releases/opus-ivs-announces-of-master-class-free-training-series