By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
Cruising the web recently, I came across an interesting and informative document. It is the summary of the proceedings at the Second Annual Electric Vehicle Safety Standards Summit held in September, 2011. The event was co-hosted by SAE and NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association and was attended by representatives from every type of group having contact with EVs: fleet managers, OEMs, police and fire agencies, electrical suppliers and installers (think “charging stations”), regulators and government officials and many other “stakeholders.”
One purpose of the summit is to work towards industry wide standards for manufacture, installation, operation, training and incident response for anything involving a vehicle with a high-voltage system. At the first summit in 2010, four working groups were formed to identify and address potential problems throughout the EV infrastructure. The groups gave consensus reports at this meeting and then met again to consider industry-wide topics.
One working group studied “battery hazards” and touched on all the topics you’d expect: transport, storage, handling, service and so on. They noted that battery and EV technology may be advancing so quickly that training and field knowledge may not be able to keep up.
All the groups agreed that vehicle manufacturers, both domestic and international, must arrive at standard procedures for “safing” or disconnecting EV circuits plus the need for standard charging connectors and plugs. Besides the importance to service facilities, standards will aid police and fire agencies, tow companies, fleet managers and even the vehicle owner.
Everyone is familiar with the term First Responder, the loyal men and women (usually police, fire and emergency medical units) who are called first to the scene of a collision. But one of the study groups presented some additional terms—did you ever consider the Second Responders or the First Receivers? Both play a part in an EV crash.
Second responders are those called after the scene is stable and secure, possibly vehicle recovery trucks, insurance or official investigators, utility repair crews, and perhaps even building inspectors or salvage operators. Without correct standards and procedures, these folks may also be put at risk.
First receivers are just that, but they get a delayed piece of the action. “They” could be a storage yard operator (where the vehicle is taken just to get it off the road), medical personnel at a hospital or clinic, or possibly even law enforcement if an occupant is taken into custody. It is important for these people to know if they, or their patient, have been exposed to battery materials or fluids and how to prevent that from happening in the first place. The greater point is that an EV incident may have effects extended beyond the immediate scene.
Another call from the groups was for standardization of service and charging equipment (termed EVSE),
particularly in public areas. Some of the possible problems foreseen at outdoor public charging points included somebody simply stealing the electricity for non-automotive use, and ill-advised attempts to steal the wire and cable inside the hook-ups.
Overall, the groups also agreed that firm standards and prompt, effective training will be keys to making EVs safe and serviceable, but in a nod to what they call “gap issues” (foreseeable problems with no straightforward solution), they also marked “aftermarket modifications by consumers” as continuing to be a challenge. Nothing new there.
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