It’s forecast that by 2030 there will be 250 million electric and hybrid electric vehicles in the world (Source: Investors Chronicle February 2020). This seismic shift in the motor industry will have profound affects in how to safely undertake maintenance and repairs.
There are substantial additional hazards in working with electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid vehicles (HV). Specifically, the voltages present being significantly higher than in previous generation internal combustion engine cars and trucks. Current manufactured EVs can have up to 650 Volts of direct current (DC) versus 12/24 Volts DC in older petrol and diesel engine vehicles.
Critically, in dry conditions, accidental contact with parts that are live at voltages above 110 Volts DC can be fatal. Furthermore, battery systems may contain chemicals that can be harmful if released. They also store significant amounts of energy that can give rise to an explosion if not dealt with correctly.
The UK Government Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has identified the following potential dangers when
working with EVs and HVs:
- A fatal electric shock through the presence of high voltage components and cabling.
- Explosion or fire caused via the storage of electrical energy.
- A dangerous voltage that may be retained in components even when a vehicle is switched off.
- The vehicle itself that may move unexpectedly or due to magnetic forces within the electric motors.
- Manual handling risks associated with battery replacement.
- The release of explosive gases and harmful liquids if batteries are damaged or incorrectly modified.
- People being unaware of vehicles moving as when electrically driven they are silent in operation.
- Medical devices such as pacemakers affected by the electrical systems on the vehicle.