Electric vehicle charging stations are an important aspect ofelectric vehicle programs. Manufacturers have created dependableequipment, however, there are shock hazards associated with thesehigh-voltage devices. Safety training and periodic safetyinspections can help minimize injuries and hopefully prevent claimsor litigation.

|

Charging stations come in various models and voltages, rangingfrom 110 volts to 500 volts-125 amperes. The Level 2 chargingstations utilize 240 volts-32 amps, which is more common within thenation’s infrastructure.

|

Cities, counties and municipalities have also decided to usegovernment-funded free charging stations which have been added tocity streets, parks and parking garages. This new technology canintroduce shock hazards due to vandalism, copper theft, chaffedcables or accidents involving the charging devices. The public isgenerally unaware of these hazards or what to do in the event of anemergency situation.

|

Copper theft of charging stations has increased and the stationsremain energized after the cables have been severed. The cable on acharging station usually receives energy upon connecting to anelectric vehicle and once the charge is complete, the cable becomesde-energized. However, the charging station still remains fullyenergized with 240 volts or 500 volts of deadly electricity.

|

The industry relies on Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)breaker technology to protect the public. GFCI is common in manyappliances, household outlets and other electronics.

|

GFCI failure

|

Some areas of the country report a 57% failure rate on GFCIbreakers, and variables such as lightning, age and poor inspectionpolicies have contributed to the failure of these devices. A studydone by National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) andthe U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, (http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/109854/AnalysisGFCI.pdf)found that:

  • In high lightning areas, 8.7% of receptacle GFCIs were notoperational compared to 8.0% in low lightning areas.
  • In warm areas, 8.5% of receptacle GFCIs were not operationalcompared to 8.2% in cooler areas.
  • In high humidity areas, 10.5% of receptacle GFCIs were notoperational compared to 7.3% in dry areas.

GFCI failure can create a dangerous situation for anyone comingin contact with the electric vehicle charging stations. GFCIbreakers should be tested frequently and reviewed with other partsof the charging station. A record should be kept of eachinspection.

|

|
auto charging station
|

Photo: MatejKastelic/Shutterstock

|

Identifying safety concerns

|

Collisions, vandalism and theft can damage these devices. Theindustry lacks safety precautions such as periodic inspections,signage, and safety training to protect the public and electricvehicle owners who utilize them. Cables that have been continuouslydragged on the ground will show signs of chafing and wireextrusion. Standing water, cut cables (from copper thieves) andstolen units create a dangerous situation for anyone who comes incontact with the unit and can result in electrocution. However, themajority of the time, the cables are de-energized.

|

The government expects 1.7 million charging devices across thecountry by 2017. To date, not one state requires periodic safetyinspections. Because these devices are easily accessible, some maychoose to bypass standard safety procedures. Currently, there areno consequences for improperly installed charging devices or thosethat are not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

|

Home charging stations also raise concerns about properinstallation. Homeowners may not notify their insurance carrierthat they have added this new equipment. Any homeowner can purchasea device online or direct from the manufacturer and decide if theywant to spend $1,000 for an electrician to come and install theunit.

|

|

Some states have a permit process and others do not. Theinsurance industry can play an important role in creating a safecharging environment by providing recommendations for homeowners tofollow. Creating a relationship with a reputable electrician andinforming the local fire department about the device and its shutoff location are important safety steps. An EVSE safety expert canalso assist the homeowner with the process.

|

Safety assessments

|

Currently, there are no statutes requiring periodic inspectionsof electric vehicle charging stations. Some charging devices may beprivately owned and others may be owned and operated by a city,county or municipality. With the program in its infancy, incidentsor accidents have not been reported and minimal data isavailable.

|

Insurers can play an important role in educating policyholdersabout the dangers of these devices and the value of regularinspections. Commercial insurers and risk managers may want toconsider requiring charging station owners to maintain some type ofrecordkeeping for inspections and testing to keep premiumscompetitive and reduce the risk of litigation. Policyholders mustunderstand they can be held liable for any incidents involvingthese stations.

|

Electric vehicle charging stations play an important role inkeeping electric vehicles on the road and safety must be apriority. Regular inspection programs can help identify issues suchas malfunctions, theft and vandalism, and may decrease the chancesof injuries, claims and litigation.

|

James Maddox is the CEO of GreenStar Safety Solutions LLCand can be reached at [email protected].Heis a Certified Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) contractorand holds several certifications in electric vehicle safety andelectric vehicle charging safety from GM, NFPA, UL Listing andGeneral Electric.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free PropertyCasualty360 Digital Reader

  • All PropertyCasualty360.com news coverage, best practices, and in-depth analysis.
  • Educational webcasts, resources from industry leaders, and informative newsletters.
  • Other award-winning websites including BenefitsPRO.com and ThinkAdvisor.com.
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.