For the first time, the International Motor Show IAA, which has been a Frankfurt institution for many years, is being held in Munich, and in keeping with this turning point, vehicles with internal combustion engines are no longer the main actors in this performance show.

The industry seems to agree: the future of mobility is electric, the stars of the fair are the new e-cars.

But as momentous as this reorientation is, it has not yet penetrated the entire industry; in the workshops, for example, e-mobility does not yet play a role.

And it will take some time before all mechanics and workshops can handle the new technologies.

As with Altarik Hasanovic, the twenty-year-old has just started his apprenticeship as a car mechanic in a car repair shop in the north of Frankfurt.

Since August he has been learning what is hidden under a hood and how to repair it.

"Only two days ago we had a discussion in our class at the vocational school why we are now discussing a diesel engine when that will no longer be relevant in a few years," says Hasanovic.

But despite the optimism among the manufacturers, the following applies to workshops and vocational schools: the combustion engine remains the foundation.

"We learn the basics of electronics right from the start, that is, circuits and things like that, but a large part of the day in the vocational school is about internal combustion engines."

"A careless move can be fatal"

At Edin Motors in Praunheim, the workshop that Hasanovic trains, he hardly ever comes into contact with electric cars.

There are at least two reasons for this.

“We are not allowed to let our trainees use cars like this at all,” says workshop owner Edin Pandza (34).

Both hybrid vehicles and e-cars are under high voltage.

"A careless move can end in death," says Pandza.

In general, only those who are specially trained are allowed to work on battery-operated vehicles.

For Hasanovic this means that he can only watch when his experienced colleagues have an electric car in the workshop.

Two of them have attended training courses in addition to their vehicle training in order to be able to maintain Stromer vehicles.

During her apprenticeship, which was some time ago, electric motors weren't an issue anyway.

But all too often the specialist knowledge of colleagues is not needed anyway.

“A month we have two, maybe three e-cars on our farm, no comparison to our other customers with a diesel or gasoline engine,” says workshop owner Pandza, explaining why the car mechanic of tomorrow will still have to be familiar with internal combustion engines.

The share of electric and hybrid vehicles in Germany is still below five percent, but their registration numbers have recently increased noticeably.

“The future is just about climate-friendly cars, that's a fact,” says Pandza.

Time-consuming and expensive

In order not to be left behind by the mobility transition, the workshop operators have to invest and change work processes. “We need special tools to work on hybrid cars and electric vehicles. It has to be isolated so that you can work safely on the car, ”reports Pandza. A whole set could easily cost 3000 euros. In addition, electric cars in the workshop must be specially marked for the safety of employees and cordoned off with posts, as the high voltage poses a mortal danger.

Only when these cars have been "unlocked" by a trained mechanic, i.e. no more electricity flows inside, can you work on them without hesitation.

"E-cars require less, but more intensive maintenance," says Pandza.

The activation alone could take over an hour, with some models even seats would have to be removed.

"We as a workshop have to see how economical it is."

Still useful knowledge

Pandza's trainee Hasanovic is not doomed to watch forever either, the automotive training followed suit in 2016 with regard to electromobility. “By the third year of their apprenticeship at the latest, our trainees undergo a one-week training course for working with high voltage,” says Claus Kapelke, managing director of the motor vehicle guild for Frankfurt and the Main-Taunus district. After completing their training, the young mechanics are not professionals in dealing with e-cars, but they are then also allowed to work on these vehicles, "important basics are already taught," says the head of the guild.

So Hasanovic has to be patient, he already believes that the first years of vocational school will not be in vain either. “Of course, a lot later revolves around hybrid and electric. But every now and then an old Porsche or Mercedes with a combustion engine will drive up here. So what I'm still learning now will never be completely useless. ”Edin Pandza will probably still have a box of spark plugs in his closet for such cases twenty years from now.