Toronto, Ontario — The North American collision repair industry’s fun uncle, Dave Luehr, was live to his vast audience on Tuesday to play host for GMG Envirosafe’s Kevin Dwyer, delivering a presentation on EV safety and what your techs need to know to keep any unexpected charges strictly financial.
Where do you start with EV safety, one might ask. Well, Dwyer’s recommendations start off pretty simple; set out signs on any electrified vehicles that are currently in your shop, whether full-electric or hybrid, that clearly mark a vehicle as having exposed energized parts (EEPs). A bright yellow sign or card reading “Caution: exposed energized parts” should do the trick.
This lets your staff know which vehicles are safe for anyone to lay hands on, and which require the attention of specially-certified technicians in protective gear.
Following that, Dwyer cemented the fact that items like a non-contact infrared thermometer and voltmeter are an EV technician’s best friends when it comes to safety and preventing the dreaded thermal runaway event that haunts techs and drivers alike.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a thermal runaway is an event that occurs in a lithium-ion battery where small, consistent temperature increases could cause a vehicle battery to enter an uncontrollable state of self-heating and lead to a fire that is very difficult to extinguish.
As such, Dwyer recommends keeping a near-constant eye on the temperature and residual charge of any EV being worked on, as it has been reported that many technicians misidentify things like a vehicle’s “service mode” as equivalent to fully de-energizing a vehicle—a misconception that could have deadly consequences, Dwyer warns.
He recommends that EV technicians first lock away the key FOB of the vehicle they are working on to prevent any accidental system start-ups.
Then the charging equipment and any related cables can be disconnected, though you may first want to lower the driver-side window to make things a little easier to reach. Afterwards, technicians are encouraged to wait at least 15 minutes for any residual energy to dissipate from the battery.
Before the work begins though, make sure to check that voltmeter again to confirm that the electronics are cooling off.
Re-energizing follows a similar set of steps, although perhaps with a heightened emphasis on temperature and voltage monitoring as the vehicle powers back up.
When it comes to who at your shop is safe to work on electrified vehicles, Dwyer says that unfortunately any technician with electronic medical devices on their person, like a pacemaker, insulin or medical pump, metal surgical implants, or hearing aids, are not safe to be working around EEPs.
Technicians are encouraged to have properly certified lineman gloves, outer leather gloves to supplement, an arc flash protective face shield and a voltmeter up to 1,000V. Shops should equip themselves with rescue hooks in the event a technician is electrocuted and must be physically separated from the vehicle.
Finally, Dwyer says shops should make a point of posting a list identifying which technicians are authorized to perform repairs on electrified vehicles as a way to further cement the amount of training, both safety and repair-wise, that is required to fix them.