Electric cars: charger safety
As more electric cars hit the roads, Ian Beevis, from Clean Green Cars, provides some useful tips for charging them safely.
More and more electric cars are hitting the roads as congestion charges and the rising cost of petrol is beginning to hit motorists' wallets. Whilst you don't need to visit a petrol station when you own an electric car, you do need to charge it and there are some things you need to bear in mind when doing so to ensure you aren’t involved in an incident:
Types of charger
Whilst you can charge your electric car from a standard 3-pin socket it won't be able to charge quickly, so this is only really an option if you aren't at home. Charging a car will place a strain on your electrics so it is a good idea to get them inspected by a NICEIC registered electrician to ensure they can cope with it without overheating or damaging the circuit. A better option for charging your car whilst it is on your driveway is a dedicated home charging point. At the time of writing, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles offers grants to cover part of the cost of installation.
A third option, only available in certain locations and on some cars, is to use a rapid-charge DC charger. This bypasses the normal charging system to charge the battery directly. They can charge the battery to 80% within 30 minutes. Finally, there are AC rapid-chargers. These, like their DC counterparts, also charge the car quickly allowing you to get back on the road in half an hour or so.
Of course, when charging your car try to park it with the charging point as close to the charger as possible to avoid creating a trip hazard with the cable.
Electricity and water don't mix. Whilst electric cars are designed to be charged whilst it is raining it is important to avoid getting the contacts wet if you need to plug it in while it's pouring down. If you are charging from a mains power outlet at home you should not plug the car in unless you can do so undercover.
Installing a Charger
If you have just bought an electric car, you will probably want to install a charging point at home. Your dealership may be able to recommend someone but make sure that they are correctly qualified and that the charger they are supplying meets current UK specifications. Also make sure that the charger is compatible with your car as there is no agreed specification for plugs. You may wish to purchase adaptor cables for use with public charging points.
Electric vehicles are not designed to be serviced by home mechanics. Except for basic maintenance checks as detailed in your user manual, you should not attempt to modify or repair the drive train - as to do so could result in injury, electric shock, explosion of the battery or vehicle fire.
Drivers with pacemakers are advised to avoid remaining near the car whilst it is charging as the effect of any magnetic field caused by the charger on pacemakers has not yet been adequately investigated.
If your electric car is involved in an incident – of any sort – it is important to get the battery checked for damage as soon as possible. Even if the car was not damaged in the area where the batteries are located, the force of the impact could cause internal ruptures which, when the car is next charged, could start a fire. In US tests, it has been found that rotating the batteries through more than 180º (to simulate a rollover accident) can cause them to overheat and start smoking.
In conclusion, electric vehicles improve air quality by reducing emissions at point of use. Like internal combustion engine powered vehicles. However, there are safety considerations to be taken into account when refuelling.