Hybrid and electric vehicles

Business Insights

To get the most from hybrid and electric vehicles they need to be maintained, serviced, repaired and even cleaned by suitably qualified technicians conversant with their special requirements.

People in the motor vehicle repair and recovery industry are now more likely to come across hybrid and electric vehicles (E&HVs) and as a result need to be aware of the additional hazards they may be exposed to when working with these vehicles.

Voltages present in E&HVs are significantly higher (currently up to 650 Volts direct current (dc)) than those used in other vehicles (12/24 Volts dc). In dry conditions, accidental contact with parts that are live at voltages above 110 Volts dc can be fatal. For E&HVs dc voltages between 60 and 1500 Volts are referred to as ‘high voltage’.

Battery systems may contain chemicals that can be harmful if released. They also store significant amounts of energy that can give rise to explosion if not dealt with correctly.

There are substantial differences in the designs of E&HVs from different manufacturers. Having information specific to the manufacturer and the vehicle being worked on is important in identifying what actions are necessary to work safely.

E &HVs introduce hazards into the workplace in addition to those normally associated with the repair and maintenance of vehicles, roadside recovery and other vehicle related activities. These include:

  • the presence of high voltage components and cabling capable of delivering a fatal electric shock.

  • the storage of electrical energy with the potential to cause explosion or fire.

  • components that may retain a dangerous voltage even when a vehicle is switched off.

  • electric motors or the vehicle itself that may move unexpectedly due to magnetic forces within the motors.

  • manual handling risks associated with battery replacement.

  • the potential for the release of explosive gases and harmful liquids if batteries are damaged or incorrectly modified.

  • the possibility of people being unaware of vehicles moving as when electrically driven they are silent in operation.

  • the potential for the electrical systems on the vehicle to affect medical devices such as pacemakers.

Even when it comes to cleaning or valeting these vehicles it should be realised that pressure washing has the potential to damage high voltage electrical components and cables, guidance from the manufacturers should be sought before valeting in any under body areas including the engine bay.

So it is back to the training centres for both Mot Testers and vehicle technicians likely to work on E&HVs, as the increasingly stringent regulations regarding emissions and the likelihood of commercial vehicles being taxed on emissions must mean that the numbers of electrical and hybrid vehicles on our roads will certainly rise.