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Danger: High Voltage!

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A change in mindset is needed to become a high-voltage expert – Wayne McCluskey of ZF Aftermarket discusses electric vehicle systems training.

ZF Aftermarket delivers technical training to independent workshops through its ZF [pro]Tech garage workshop concept and is experiencing a growing demand for its hybrid and electric vehicle training. It has added extra dates for its six-day intensive ‘Advanced Status’ course at its training centre in Crick, Northampton – remaining courses for 2019 take place June 18- 28, July 22 to August 2nd and November 26th – December 6th. 

Technical Training Manager, Wayne McCluskey, explains why training in this field is so important: “You wouldn’t expect an automotive technician lacking the necessary training and experience to attempt repairs to an industrial three-phase high voltage installation. A modern electric car is effectively the same thing – a high voltage machine – but presented in a mobile platform.”With passenger car systems operating at around 600V and 400A, there is a very real risk for those unskilled in high voltage working to cause serious injury or death. These hazards are only likely to increase with the next generation of electric vehicles, making the need for training all the more vital. 

THE NEED FOR TRAINING AND LEGISLATION 

There is currently no legal framework in the UK governing the duty of care that should be undertaken by businesses and individuals when working on electric vehicles. ZF Aftermarket, together with a number of industry partners, such as the IMI, is working to change this. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill became law in July 2018 and there are currently amendments to the Bill on the table which, if accepted, would require those repairing and maintaining electric vehicles to be licensed to carry out the work safely. Until such time as UK law catches up with industry requirements, ZF Aftermarket training references German electric vehicle legislation, along with the UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act. 

ELECTRICALLY INFORMED PERSONS

“For those who have been used to 12, 24 or 48V automotive electrical systems, a change in mindset and a higher level of awareness is needed to work safely with high voltage electric vehicles,” explains Wayne. “For example, where electrical cables in a conventional vehicle are routinely removed and reinstalled multiple times and connections probably tightened by feel, high voltage cables are only rated for a certain number of connection cycles and terminations must be accurately tightened to the specified torque. This is because any abrasion of the contact areas or incorrect tensioning can have a dramatic effect on electrical resistance, possibly leading to localised heating and subsequent fire risk.” 

ZF provides two levels of training for those seeking proficiency in hybrid and electric vehicle systems. Blending theory and practical instruction, the more basic course delivers enough knowledge to take a delegate to the ‘Electrically Informed Person’ (EIP) level of competence. Attendees learn fundamental safety procedures such as following vehicle manufacturers’ protocols for powering down a vehicle and applying the correct barrier techniques to ensure electrical isolation so the vehicle cannot restart unintentionally. Each EIP course is one (admittedly long) day in duration and ideally has only eight delegates attending, allowing each person sufficient time to complete the practical exercises included. 

HIGH VOLTAGE EXPERTS

“While someone who achieves EIP status is well on the way to working safely with electric vehicles, they are not yet qualified to work on the high voltage parts of the system,” explains Wayne. “To date, around a third of Electrically Informed Persons have returned to tackle the advanced stage of ZF’s Aftermarket’s training offer: The ‘High Voltage Expert’ (HVE) level of competence.” Before gaining access to HVE training, applicants must pre-qualify by successfully completing six online e-learning modules during the six weeks prior to training. 

The intensive six-day HVE course incorporates a further three e-learning modules – each with its own test – plus two, one-hour written examinations and a one-hour practical assessment. The electric vehicle systems training is the same as that provided to ZF research and development staff and to certain vehicle manufacturers’ production line technicians.

PHONE: 03332 401 123

IMPORTANCE OF POWERING DOWN AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE SAFELY 

Correctly and safely powering down an electric vehicle is vitally important. There are many things to consider from the use of Personal Protection Equipment, to the 1,000V rated specialist test equipment required. 

To ensure the system is safe to work on, it is essential that voltage readings are taken to verify zero potential. It’s paramount to always follow the specific vehicle manufacturer’s protocols as shut down procedures and the number of steps taken vary – though all usually involve allowing at least 10 minutes to pass once the correct stages have been completed, so that the capacitors in the system can discharge. Learning how to correctly power down a vehicle and verify the vehicle is safely discharged is covered in detail on ZF’s HVE IMI course level 3. 

 

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