• First Mack/Volvo Certified EV Dealer - The DL S3E17

    First Mack/Volvo Certified EV Dealer - The DL S3E17 is now available on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, IGTV, and YouTube.

    In this episode of The DL, Diesel Laptops’ Founder and CEO, Tyler Robertson, is joined by Chris Paris, Technical Service Director, and Bob Blanchard, Master Technician and Trainer, at Affinity Truck Center, the first Mack and Volvo certified EV dealer. Chris and Bob talk everything about EV as well as share their experience and expertise being one of the first Mack and Volvo certified EV dealers. 

    Please like, subscribe, and share. If you have questions or would like to learn more about a particular topic, drop a comment and let us know. 

    As always thank you for watching and listening!

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    Transcript for First Mack/Volvo Certified EV Dealer - The DL S3E17:

    Tyler Robertson:

    So, here we go. Welcome to the DL. I am your host, Tyler Robertson, the CEO and founder of Diesel  Laptops. But let's just break that down for a second. Things are changing. EV trucks are here. You're  seeing it in the news. You're seeing it everywhere. Besides me probably needing a name change in my  company, I brought some people on here today that are going to talk about EVs. And we're actually  going to talk about it from the dealership side of the world. So, I'm fortunate today to have two people  here with Affinity Truck Center. 

    So Affinity Truck Center, they're in California. They're actually in the Central Valley. They were  the first certified EV dealer in the Central Valley, according to Volvo. And, they're actually certified by both Mack and Volvo. So, I get to learn today along with the rest of you everything going along on the  repair side of the world, especially when it comes to EVs. 

    So, I have today with me, Chris Paris, who's the technical and sales director. And by the way, I  had to ask him exactly what that title means and what they do inside the industry, which was good to  learn. And, I have Bob here as well, who's the lead trainer in the senior tech over at Affinity. So  gentlemen, welcome to the DL. I'm guessing this is your first podcast you've done in a while or ever,  maybe. 

    Bob: 

    How about the first ever? 

    Chris: 

    Yeah the first ever. Yep. 

    Bob: 

    Thanks. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Well, I'm excited to have you on here because I saw the press release. I saw, hey, EV dealerships  certified all those things. So, let's just say this. I haven't seen a lot of EVs driving around. I'm in South  Carolina. Are EVs out there yet? Are they running around California? What's it like out there? 

    Bob: 

    So, from the Volvo standpoint or the class eight standpoint, we just delivered our first two. So, the first  two that hit the Central Valley are out now, or they're just starting their first runs rather, that are  production trucks. There's been some test trucks, there's been some demos, but the first production  trucks just hit. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So I can imagine if you're selling trucks, you've got to be able to support them, right? So that's what the  certification was all about. So, what kind of process was this? What training was needed? What  equipment was needed? Who got trained? Give us some details here, what it took. 

    Bob: 

    Yeah, the training was fun. The requirements from the OEM, we sat down every week and had a  meeting with them and talked about, they're still developing this. It's worth doing it. But we had online  training that was required, not just of service, not just of sales, not just of parts, they wanted the whole  company. I mean, our accounting people had to take the online training because they want everybody  to know what it is when it pulls in and be comfortable with it. 

    So, it was interesting hearing our accounting people and the administrative office asking  questions in the shop going, "What are they talking about traction voltage? What is this stuff?" So, it was interesting. That was the very first part. The next was ordering tooling and watching all the stuff  come in. It was a decent investment. Probably in the, I don't know, 15 to $20,000 range for the tools. 

    Not horrible, but it was a big investment. And then, the three of us had to go off to a training facility and  actually learn how to decommission these trucks and make them safe to work on. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So, yeah... 

    Bob: 

    It was pretty much the show. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So Bob, you're the lead trainer there, the lead technician. Was this like a quantum leap from what you  already knew about electrical, about trucks? Was it totally different or was it just like a stepping stone  into the next evolution here? 

    Bob: 

    Probably a little bit of both. Yeah. I mean, we heard about these trucks coming online a year or so ago.  So we've been kind of prepping ourselves, reading some material out there on what is the difference  between we have amperage and voltage in diesel truck. Now we're talking, what is it, the KB per mile  and... 

    Chris: 

    Yeah. Kilowatts per mile. 

    Bob: 

    Kilowatts per mile. And so there was a little bit of a change there. I think for the older technicians. Yeah.  It's going to be a huge quantum leap for them, the younger techs coming in nowadays, they're coming in  right at the right time to learn about this. So yeah, I think the younger generation is whats going to carry  this forward with this. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So... 

    Chris: 

    It's kind of funny because Bob started with mechanical engines. 

    Bob: 

    Oh yeah. 

    Chris: 

    He saw the firsts. And I came in on early where there were still mechanical motors, but mostly they were  electronic by the time I came in. And the evolution's been crazy, but we've been joking with students. I  know you had Eric Rubio on here a while back who was the high school teacher here locally. We've built  an awesome program. We've worked with since the beginning on that. And he's actually looking for  funding right now to get an electric truck in this program. But we talked to these students and they were like, "yeah, I want to be a diesel tech. I want to be a diesel tech." You want to be a heavy duty truck  tech. 

    Bob: 

    That's right. 

    Chris: 

    You're going to be working on hydrogen. You're going to be working on batteries and you might see a  diesel. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So I worked at a dealership for a while and sometimes they'd call it training and you go there and it was like a sales pitch for eight hours or something. Was this a little more in depth? Was it like a one day thing? Or how deep did they get into these things with you guys? There's got to be some things to learn  there, it's, newer stuff. How was the experience? It sounds like Volvo and Mac or was it one course or  was it two things or how'd they do that? 

    Bob: 

    It's both. It was a two day course, a lot of terminology. I mean, they want to make sure you understand  all the terminology, a lot of new words, again, like traction voltages, the 600 volt system on this truck  and all the safety's built into it. But no, you're going to go in there and get dirty. And it was actually  interesting, we had a very high up person from Volvo show up to the training in his suit. And he says, I  just want to learn this stuff. And the teacher says, oh no, you're going to be laying on the ground in that  suit. We're all getting dirty. And he did, he jumped right in. 

    But it was neat to see from one end of Volvo to the other, everybody is involved including the  dealers, but no, it was definitely hands on, definitely testing it. We're in there wearing... I got pictures of  Bob wearing the glass shield over his face and you got two layers of gloves and all kinds of protection on.  And somebody standing behind you, just their job is to monitor you and make sure you don't make a  mistake. It can be bad. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So, I guess a question here for you, Bob. So if diesel techs are listening to this and obviously you guys are  a dealer you're at the front of this, you're seeing the first trucks get delivered and all these things. Is  there any like big takeaways, that you'd want people listening to know, "man, this thing was way out of  the world" or "man get good electrical" or any advice you give to people kind of knowing, "Hey, this is  where things are going. This is where the industry's going." Any words of advice you give people there? 

    Bob: 

    Well, I mean, definitely the electric technology's going to continue forward even with the hydrogen  truck. So I think the main thing to remember is the high voltage traction system. Everything is in orange.  Don't touch the orange cable if you don't know what you're doing. So that's the easiest way to put it. 

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. I mean, is that enough voltage to kill somebody on these things? I mean, I've heard that from  other people. You need to know what you're doing. If you don't, you can get seriously hurt. And by the  way, that's not a knock on EV that's true on diesel as well, high pressure oil lines and all that other stuff. 

    Bob: 

    Right. And yeah, it's enough to kill you. And it's the same as like a PG&E lineman. There can be what the  vapor flash over from a cable... 

    Chris: 

    To hard flashing. 

    Bob: 

    Hard flashes. Yeah. So. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Well, so you got two of these things out there when they first rolled in the dealership. What was the  reaction by all the diesel techs? Were they all "eh, that EV thing," or were they all kind of like, "Nope,  pop the hood. I want to see this thing or I want to roll underneath it." What was the reaction from the  normal guys, I guess that are doing the diesel stuff? 

    Chris: 

    You're still a tech at heart, I'm sure. And the same thing would happen if one pulled in front of you,  you'd want that hood open. You'd want a creeper and flashlight, let me go in and go see what it is. It was  the same thing. We actually have a separate building here that we park it in, where we have to keep  them roped off. Anytime we're working on them, there's a security area you have to have. We brought  them all over in groups and let them play 101 questions with it and everybody from the whole company,  we brought everybody over. And we've got a demo coming out in a few weeks. We're going to do an  open house for our customers and let them drive it around. The curiosity is just through the roof. People  are just fascinated by it. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I got... 

    Chris: 

    It's fun to drive. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I mean, I got to imagine. Right? Like people are curious. I mean, and actually I posted a thing about  an EV bus on LinkedIn a couple months ago and it was a Navistar bus. Right. And then Navistar actually  reached out to me and said, "Hey, would you like to come to our E mobility center and check these  things out?" I'm like "yeah, I would love to do that." So I'm actually flying out there next week to go  learn more. So this has been a great experience. So the other question comes up is the charging  stations, right? So I'm assuming you're a dealer you're selling them you got to put some charging  stations in and you're servicing them. What does that look like? And I've heard those things aren't  cheap.

    Bob: 

    So the price range is huge on them depending on what you're trying to do. I think we're 25,000, $30,000 into the first charger we bought, which is a slow charger. It's a 25 kilowatt hour charger. For a customer  they're going to want so much more robust. They're going to want a 150 and prices close to 150,000 for  that. All this revolves around grants right now. If you want to be an early adopter, you want to get into it right now. You really need to look for it's grants. Fortunately, we had 480 here, X four ADA C voltage,  most places don't. Our Bakersfield stores. All our other locations don't have it. And the cost for bringing  in that power is pretty significant. And I mean, I'm looking at grants right now at our other locations to  get some help with it. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I've heard it's very expensive. And I think you're right. All the early adopters here are either, bigger  companies, the Anheuser-Busch, they are saying, "Nope, we're in our UPSs, right? They're like, Nope,  this is our future. We're good. We understand the expense." And a lot of those buses that we see out  there today are getting grant money and all those types of things. And I know you said the interest is  high. Is that coming from the customers as well? Are customers like, "man, I heard you got one there.  Can I come look at it?" Is that getting out there in the world? 

    Bob: 

    Yes. Everybody is, there's a few naysayers out there, but for the most part, most people are very  intrigued by it. Very curious, we obviously wish they had more range. I think if people could put bigger  diesel tanks without the weight on their truck, they would too. This range is always the thing on a truck.  And they're not quite there in the first gen, but the second generation is coming makes it very practical.  No, it's great. It's great. I was on the phone yesterday, calling our waste customers. Mac has an electric  garbage truck available, and people are very engaged. Very, very engaged. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So the Volvo you got was the VN or VNL or whatever model it was. So more the traditional class eight  truck, you mentioned the Mac. Is it medium duty? Is there more makes and models or what's it looking  like currently? 

    Chris: 

    For our range and the only stuff that's in production right now is the Mac and Volvo. There's a lot of  people out there, right? No, Freight liners got some demo trucks and they're going into production. I  think they're probably going to be the next ones. I don't know that for a fact, but I think they're next. But  yeah, right now the Mac is in production. It's not the medium duty. It's the class eight. It's the cab over garbage truck one, is built for electric and city. In New York's running, I don't know, eight or 10 of them  right now. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. Actually really makes sense in that refuse market, special residential areas, right? Not the big,  diesel engine at 5:00 AM picking up garbage cans, something a little quieter. 

    Chris:

    Yeah. They can run all night long and not stop and go actually recharges the battery. So it is a perfect  application for it. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So Bob, a question for you here. Again, I'm not an EV guy I know a little bit to be dangerous. I know a Tesla, they got different towing requirements. You can't put them on lifts. Is there requirements like this  as well that you have to handle these things a little bit differently in applications? Or is there not really  too much difference? 

    Bob: 

    Well, the truck itself, it's still a truck, a regular diesel truck. Just remove the diesel engine and  transmission and drop in the electric motors. So it's still a truck. You can tow it the same way as you  would tow a diesel truck. You still have your air systems, your brake systems, suspension, HVAC, all of  that. So you got to keep in mind, it's still a truck. I mean, got all the same systems as a diesel. Yep. 

    Chris: 

    Yeah. I mean, putting it up on lifts, you've had them on lifts. I know that as far as towing, them with a  diesel truck, you can burn up the transmission, if you don't pull the drive line. Right? 

    Bob: 

    Right. 

    Chris: 

    On our trucks now, see there's a lot of different lines out there. Some have wheel hub motors, ours do  not. Ours has a motor and a transmission. So you still have a typical drive line, just like you would on a  regular truck. You remove the drive line. When you go to tow it from the front or go from the back. Yes. It will start generating electricity. If you tow it, leave the drive line in and could cause some problems. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So I'm going to ask you guys both this question. I'd love to hear your answers. First time you drove one  yourself, what was the experience like? 

    Chris: 

    I thought it was a big golf cart. It was quiet. I couldn't believe it. I've drove them quite a bit the last  couple weeks and it still impresses me, when I drive them. So yeah. 

    Bob: 

    They're incredibly smooth. You're typically going from a 10 to 13 speed transmission in a truck and that  rocking back and forth as you take off, especially if you're really on the throttle, right? 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. 

    Bob:

    This has a two speed transmission in it. You'll never hear. You'll never even know it shifted. It's just this  incredibly gentle acceleration. It was kind of interesting, we had a customer demo it and with the first  driver out says, well, it kind of feels slow. And every other driver said, oh no, I was leaving everybody on  the road with this thing. It's just so smooth when it accelerates you don't notice it. It's fast. It's incredibly fast. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. And you guys mentioned the battery earlier, right? Now kind of look at it like Tesla or some of  these other companies, right? The first gen stuff. It's always, it is what it is. Second gen, better third, they just keep improving. So can you talk a little bit about where is the battery life today? And if you know anything of where they're trying to get to? 

    Bob: 

    Well, the battery life, it's kind of fun is just in one year they had a 40% improvement in the batteries.  That's a huge leap. To speak the exact kilowatt hours. I can't remember what they are, but we went  from about 120 mile range to about 240 mile range by adding two more batteries. And by increasing the  efficiency of the batteries, done quite a few different ways, changing the cooling. It's really important on  these batteries that we manage temperature. They don't like hot and they don't like cold. So just like an engine, we've got to keep it at one temperature. And it helps. The growth, where they're going to go, I mean, eventually that growth curve will slow down. I'm sure. And that's when we're going to see  hydrogen electric take over for the long haul guys. But 240 miles becomes usable, especially with the top off charge and those kind of things that they can do on route. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So the other question we get asked all the time or we hear people asking is what's the weight on these  things? Are they comparable? I mean, we removed a diesel engine, but batteries are heavy. Right? And I get these are limited use, special use situations. Can you speak a little bit about empty weights? 

    Bob: 

    So they are heavier. There's just no way around it. They're significantly heavier, but on the good side, we  have a 2000 pound allowance from the government on it or from GOT on it. So instead of being an  80,000 pound limit, there are 82,000 pound limit, which helps. But they're more than 2000 pounds  heavier than a diesel. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. 

    Bob: 

    You're going to look around 22,000 pounds for a class eight, three axle tractor. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. No. And that's, I mean, again, technology catches up to all things eventually and Bob, I guess the  other question people have is what's the warranty on these things, right? Are they longer warranty? Is there standard warranties and extended or I don't know how the whole world works there anymore on  the dealership level, but can you guys talk a little bit about warranty? And really the question, the reason I'm asking that question is when does the aftermarket need to worry about it? Right? If these  things are going out in the field and they're five year warranties, we probably got some time before we  have to deal with it. I'm curious to see where they're at. 

    Bob: 

    Yeah. Yeah, they do. In fact, I'll let Chris take over on this one. Right down his wheel house. 

    Chris: 

    So Volvo wants this to work, right? We all want it. We want this product to fly. We definitely don't want  our customers to have any grief. It is a six year that they're calling it a gold carpet service or contract. A  six year warranty that covers more than I have ever seen anything ever covered in my life, from  windshield wiper blades to break shoes. The aftermarket has a little bit of time. They've got a little bit of  time because we're launching these in big fleets that normally take care of a lot of their own stuff. And  even the techs are going well, when are we going to touch it? And guys, we don't want anyone to have  to sweat this truck when it goes in. Is it replacing their whole fleet? No, absolutely not. Will it get to the  aftermarket? 

    It has to. It's going to get there. It will be available to everybody, but we don't want anybody  getting hurt. And so they're very, I mean, even with us, the training requirements on us is to make sure  that we're, learning because we're expected. He's the trainer he's expected to teach. And he does. One  of Bob's jobs is going out in the field and teaching our customers how to work on their trucks. We have a  lot of big fleets that have to work on their own and we want to make sure our product shines and you  got to teach them the right way to do things. So six years it's going to be a while. And the battery  degradation they're expecting no more than 2% a year. They're guaranteeing that they'll still have 80%  of their life at the end of the six years. So it's pretty good. I heard that the Tesla cars, after talking to the  Highway patrol yesterday, that they're dropping 10% a year. So if we can do 2%, we're pretty excited. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. So Bob you work side by side, shoulder to shoulder with a lot of diesel techs. I look at it. If I was a  diesel tech, I may look at it and be like, well, there's no engine, there's no after treatment system, that's  a lot of the work we do today. How secure are they feeling in their jobs? Are they concerned at all about  like, man, there's not going to be as much demand for our profession. There's less moving parts, less  repairs, or is that really not a concern that anyone's really thinking about at this point? 

    Bob: 

    That's really not a concern. In fact the techs out here right now, they're getting excited to get their  hands on them as well. It's still a regular truck, there's still going to be breaks to do and fixing the AC.  But they're also looking at getting into the 600 volt, the traction drive system and all of that. So yeah. 

    Chris: 

    There's a lot of new components that we've never had before. I know that they keep saying less and  less, but you've got a power steering electric motor to run your pump. Now you've got electric motors to  run 2 24 volt AC compressors, 600 volt air compressor. There's a lot of heat management and thermal  management stuff for the batteries. We have four electric water pumps on there. So, there is still plenty of new. There's a lot of new actually.

    Bob: 

    There's just a lot of new yes. 

    Chris: 

    And things will break. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Well. And I'm actually really hopeful here. I mean, we already, I don't know how it is with you guys. But  most the world can't find enough diesel technicians, heavy truck technicians to do these things. And anytime you get new technology into an industry, it usually tends to attract some more people into "like, oh, that's kind of interesting. I want to learn more about that." And it's a whole new world that  gets opened up. So I'm really looking forward to it. I think you guys kind of mentioned it too. It sounded  like your younger techs are a little more excited about it than the older guys, or is it everyone kind of on  the same page there? 

    Bob: 

    I don't know. I think the younger guys have a little more excitement than the older guys. The older guys  are just like something new to learn, but okay, let's go. 

    Chris: 

    We see Duncan Polytech, one of the local high schools pushing. They want to get an electric truck in  there. I know the students are asking questions. We have their kids come over here once a week and  work side by side with our techs in the shop. And get a chance to see a lot of this technology. The young guys are definitely engaged. We joke about the computer learning here, especially through COVID  they're dialed on online learning where the older guys are a little bit struggle through that stuff. These guys pick it up fast, getting the practical hands on is going to be where the challenge is. And I don't know. And it is like you said, I think it's exciting. It's new, it's fresh. Hopefully it brings some new people  to it. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I... 

    Chris: 

    We could hire more today. We need more. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Yeah. I remember in my early forties and I remember when the internet became a big thing. I remember  had an internet site and internet kind of blew up and there was this new thing. And I kind of feel that  same kind of excitement here with the whole EV and like you said, fuel cells and hydrogen and all these other things are like right behind it. And I think people look at some technology today and like, "ah, it  only does 240 miles and this and that." And you're like, man, that's first gen second gen third gen. Like  it's going to go really quick. The government's putting a lot of money behind this. And I think sometimes  people look at like, "ah, that whole hybrid thing that Eaton and whoever did a couple years ago never  really took off. It's another fad."

    This is not a fad. This is the reality of the way the world's moving. And we can all see that coming  from a hundred miles away. And I think, I hope people listening to this podcast need to understand this  is not a, they'll be here or someday it's they are here today and it's only going to get more and more  popular costs will get driven down on these things. Trucks will get lighter. Ranges will get better. It's  inevitable at this point. And it's a thing you can't stop moving if for the people that are trying to stop it,  moving, it just don't even think that way, think of how you can use this to your advantage and move  forward. And it sounds like your dealership, is all in on it. It sounds like they're understanding this is the  future of where we're going. 

    Bob: 

    We've ordered some, I think it was six. Just this year. I ordered six electric vans. They're Ford transit  vans, E transit vans, for our dealership to start delivering parts. So yes, from bottom to top, we plan on  being all in and it just makes sense. You look at the $6 a gallon at a pump here, the math is there on the  light duty and the medium duty. And it will be pretty quick on the heavy duty as well. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    So I'm waiting for the federal government when they figure out, or the state governments to figure out,  wait a second, if people aren't paying money at the pump for road taxes, how are we going to pay for  these roads anymore? So that's a whole nother conversation. I think that's going to get unraveled as  time goes on here. So it's been great having you guys on here. I worked at dealerships for over 10 years.  So I can imagine the excitement there and I know what's going on across the country. 

    Obviously, California is a little bit ahead of everybody else just based on their position and all the  things they're trying to accomplish with zero emissions and all those things. And fact is I want to clean a  world for my kids and my kid's kids. So I think it's all great stuff. Every business, even when you have the  word diesel in the name of your business means to adapt and change to everything coming on. So if  people are listening to this, they want to reach out to you guys to Affinity or you individually where should they go? How do they get ahold of you guys? 

    Chris: 

    The best ways is either just call the dealership, look us up on online, affinitytruck.com. You can email me  my first initial, last name@affinitytruck.com, cparis@affinitytruck.com or you can get our number right  off our website and give us a call. 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Well... 

    Chris: 

    Sales questions, we'll get you there. If it service question, will get you there too? 

    Tyler Robertson: 

    Well, I really look forward to following the journey of the whole EV thing, seeing how Affinity handles it.  If people learn nothing from this, just realize there are government money spending billions, and there  are private companies like Affinity spending money to make this thing happen. And it's because  everyone understands where it's going in the future. It's coming. We're going to do a lot more podcasts talking to manufacturers, talking to fleets, trying to unravel this whole thing and understand where it's  going. And I know our audience. We get asked all the time about EVs. 

    I used to be able to say, look, there's more Bugattis in the US than there are class eight trucks  with electric. I'm not going to be able to say that very much longer here. So I get the trend that's going.  So thank you very much for coming on. We're going to call it a show with everybody that's been  watching and listening. We love your comments. We love it when you share, we love the likes, the little  heart symbols on some of these sites, whatever it is, just please match those buttons. Thank you very  much for watching listening. Keep in mind. It's not just diagnostics. It's diagnostics done, right. And  electrification is going to be part of that equation very, very soon for you. If it's not already, we'll catch  you on the next episode. 

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