The proliferation of Electric Cars, Buses and Trucks will continue at a rapid pace as the world moves away from fossil fuels. This rapid pace can create a knowledge gap especially outside the manufacturing realm. Think recovery, repair, and maintenance of Electric Vehicles. The current skilled labour trained to deal with gasoline engines may not have the knowledge and skill to deal with EVs. At the least the pace at which share of the EVs on road increases, the knowledge and skill of labour (outside the OEM) may not maintain the same pace. Intent of this blog is to provide an introduction to the hazards involved for people working with EVs in the motor vehicle repair and roadside recovery industry as well as those providing emergency services such as support on breakdowns and accidents

Hazards

Workers in EV repair and recovery industry need to be aware of the additional hazards they may be
exposed to when working with these electric vehicles. They also need to develop a wider range of skills and knowledge and have access to specialist insulated tools and equipment in order to be able to work safely.

Voltages present in EVs are significantly higher (650V DC) than those used in other vehicles (Voltage limited to 12/24V DC).  Accidental contact with parts that are live at voltages above 110V DC can be fatal.  In the EV industry voltages from 60V to 1500V is considered High Voltage.

Another hazard is the Battery system that may contain chemicals that can be harmful if released. These batteries also store significant amounts of energy that can give rise to an explosion if not dealt with correctly.

Identifying the Risks

EVs introduce risks into the workplace in addition to those normally associated with the repair and maintenance of vehicles, roadside recovery and other vehicle related activities. These include:

  • Presence of high voltage components and cabling capable of delivering a fatal electric shock.

  • Storage of electrical energy with the potential to cause explosion or fire.

  • Components that may retain a dangerous voltage even when a vehicle is switched off.

  • Electric motors or the vehicle itself that may move unexpectedly due to magnetic forces within the motors.

  • Manual handling risks associated with battery replacement.

  • Potential for the release of explosive gases and harmful liquids if batteries are damaged or incorrectly modified.

  • Possibility of people being unaware of vehicles moving as when electrically driven they are silent in operation.

  • Potential for the electrical systems on the vehicle to affect medical devices such as pacemakers.

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Safe Practices when working with EVs

There are several risks associated with working with EVs. As identified earlier skill and knowledge needs to be imparted to various personnel in this industry. Depending on the activity that is being carried out personnel will require varying levels of skill and knowledge to perform their task. We can categorize them based on activities as follows:

  • First responders including emergency services and vehicle recovery

  • Maintenance and repair excluding high voltage electrical systems

  • Working on high voltage electrical systems

Emergency Services & Vehicle Recovery

 

Those personnel responding to emergency situations need to visually check the Electric Vehicle for signs of damage to high voltage electrical components or cabling (usually coloured orange). Consider whether the integrity of the battery is likely to have been compromised. If the vehicle is damaged or faulty, and if safe to do so, isolate the high voltage battery system using the isolation device on the vehicle. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for guidance.

During any recovery onto a recovery vehicle, the remote operation key should be removed to a suitable distance and the standard 12/24V battery disconnected to prevent the vehicle from being activated/started.

Avoid towing E&HV vehicles unless it can be determined that it is safe to do so. Dangerous voltages can be generated by movement of the drive wheels.

A specialized set of insulated tools should be maintained by recovery personnel. Such an Insulated Tools kit should include insulated combination plier for disconnecting wires, insulated screwdrivers for fastening/unfastening of screws, open spanners and sockets for disconnecting battery terminals, insulated knives for an emergency work and insulated Allen keys for opening hex bolts.

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Maintenance and Repair

 

Visually check the vehicle for signs of damage to high voltage cabling (usually coloured orange) or electrical components before starting any work on the vehicle. Unless a specific task requires the vehicle to be energized always isolate or disconnect the high voltage battery in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

Determine the locations of high voltage cables before carrying out tasks such as panel replacement, cutting or welding. Take appropriate precautions to prevent them from being damaged. Maintain a set of VDE 1000V Insulated hand tools that covers the range of tools that may be needed for dismantling the various parts of the vehicles during repair. This should include insulated openring spanners, insulated sockets and accessoriesinsulated pliersinsulated screwdriversinsulated knives and insulated mallet. Additionally a battery toolkit would be handy for maintenance work.

Working on HV Electrical Systems

 

Visually check the vehicle for signs of damage to high voltage electrical components or cabling (usually coloured orange). High voltage systems should be isolated i.e. the power disconnected and secured such that it cannot be inadvertently switched back on. Testing should be done to ensure no systems are energized before undertaking any work. Always isolate and lock off the source of electricity and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. You must always test and prove that any high voltage cable or electrical component is dead prior to carrying out any work on it.

Even when isolated, vehicle batteries and other components may still contain large amounts of energy and retain a high voltage. Only suitable tools and test equipment should be used.  These must include electrically insulated tools and equipment.

Some electronic components may store dangerous amounts of electricity even when the vehicle is off and the battery isolated. Refer to manufacturers data on how to discharge stored energy.

There may be circumstances (e.g. after collision damage) where it has not been possible to fully isolate the high voltage electrical systems and to discharge the stored energy in the system. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions about what controls measures should be implemented before attempting to carry out further remedial work.

Working on live electrical equipment should only be considered when there is no other way for work to be undertaken. Even then it should only be considered if it is both reasonable and safe to do so. You should consider the risks for working on this live equipment and implement suitable precautions including, as a final measure, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for precautions when working live, including their PPE requirements.

A full set of insulated tools should be available for those working on Electrical Systems of EVs. Insulated sockets, torque wrenches, ratchets and extensions are must for opening/tightening of bolts. 50pcs Interchangeable Insulated Screwdriver set will have all the different tips that may be required at any time. Insulated pliers and clamps will be necessary for electrical cable management. A full set of open and ring spanners will be needed for the various bolts and nuts throughout the vehicles body.

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