Michigan Association of Fire Fighters

Electric Vehicle charging stations pose serious danger

We have been in contact with Firefighter Unions across the Country to assist us in a very important matter. Our firefighters and other first responders are in serious danger with this new technology involving Electric Vehicle Charging Stations. By 2017, there will be an estimated 1.7 million Charging Stations installed on our City Streets. The Government has set up training for the Electric Vehicle through the NFPA and no plans have been set for the Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.

We have been in contact with multiple agencies and manufacturers across the country and have invited an" agencies to our training program. Please read on to learn more about this important matter. We are the owners of GreenStar Concepts, LLC, a "Certified Contractor" of Electric Vehicle Support Equipment (EVSE); we specialize in Electric Vehicle Charging Stations. Over the past two years, we have invested a substantial amount of time in research of Electric Vehicles and EVSE.

It has truly been exciting to see the enthusiasm of our Citizens, Business Owners, and Government Officials when we talk to them about Electric Cars and their benefits, and answer their questions regarding both Electric Cars and the Electric Vehicle Support Equipment. It is not unusual for us to field questions during our conversations, regarding the safety of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations; we noted that many people were concerned with the safety of this equipment, but because of our involvement and knowledge in this industry, it was easy to respond to their concerns.

We did however take note of a particular question we received from many Business Owners and Consumers regarding the safety of the Electric Vehicle Charging Stations due to their concerns about the high voltage used to power them. Some Business Owners, Local Government Representatives, and Citizens have asked if a Charging Station was hit or run over by a vehicle, would it be safe? Considering plans by the Federal Government to deploy 1.7 million Electric Vehicle Charging Stations throughout our Communities, their concerns and questions were held merit and deserved an "honest" response.

We reviewed previous research information and conducted additional research of the safety system(s) incorporated into the Charging Stations by the EVSE Manufacturers to protect against electrical shock or exposure. We again reviewed the installation guidelines and specifications published by the various manufacturers and consulted with Electrical Engineers regarding the installation methodology.

We noted that the only protection provided or specified outside safety systems engineered and designed into Charging Stations, is the "Circuit Breaker" that provides the power to the Charging Station. In addition, we considered other installation methodologies utilizing bollards and other physical barriers; however, ADAG requires access, and as such, EV Charging Stations will be as vulnerable as gas station pumps are.

The conventional Circuit Breaker used to protect the circuit or feed that provides power to the Charging Station only responds to overloads and short circuits that occur along the feed. To determine if adequate protection is being provided, we considered the likelihood that Charging Stations will be installed in public and private parking lots, parking garages, along public streets, and in other areas where vehicular and pedestrian traffic is prevalent; we also considered the risks associated with vehicular collision and vandalism, as these high voltage appliances are highly visible elements in our Communities.

Q: So, what happens if a Charging Station is run over or struck by a vehicle or piece of equipment or is vandalized such that the Station is displaced or severely damaged? What is the potential for exposure of the high voltage power feed?

A: Under some scenarios we determined that the high voltage power feed may come in contact with the Charging Station housing, causing a short circuit or arc, which would cause the Circuit Breaker to trip and disconnect power to that feed. Other scenarios insist that there is a possibility, that the high voltage feed to the Charging Station may not come in contact with the Charging Station housing or have any condition that would create an arc or short circuit, before coming in contact with a vehicle or person. If an "over-load" or "short-circuit" does not occur, the live feed (240 Volt for Level II Charging Stations & 480 Volt for Level III Charging Stations) presents a serious and very dangerous safety hazard; electrocution/shock and even explosion of a vehicle (gas or electric powered) could occur as a result. In our opinion this equipment is’ ‘inherently dangerous" and believe more protection is necessary to prevent either scenario from causing severe injury or death. There is a critical need for improvement in safety of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations and in the installation methodologies and specifications recommended by the manufacturers.

Giving consideration to the high voltage used to power Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, readily available access in public places, and the lack of adequate security, other concerns relating to the potential for Vandalism and Terroristic Acts should also be given serious thought.

There is also an urgent need for all First Responders (Firefighters, EMS, Police, and others) are trained to properly respond to "catastrophic accidents" involving EV Charging Stations. We have advised Fire Chiefs in Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, and Hawaii of the inherent dangers associated with Electric Vehicle Charging Stations where deployed in public places; we have verified that the Fire Departments and other First Responders have not been educated about these high voltage appliances and are not prepared to respond to a catastrophic accident involving one of these devices.

We notified Safety Administrators, Government Agencies, and Regulatory Entities about the safety hazards presented by the presence of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations throughout our communities, and took the following action in our effort to improve safety where EV Chargers are concerned.

We contacted the NFPA and have shared this information with them. The NFPA responded and advised that Fire Chiefs and others involved in fire service and safety, from numerous States, have expressed their concerns with some aspects of safety as it relates to these devices. The NFPA Representative advised of their concerns and interest; this issue was addressed during their Electric Vehicle Safety Summit held September 27 -28, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The NFPA/SAE indicates in their "summary report" of recommendations for improvement in the safety of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.

We contacted the manufacturers of Electric Vehicle Support Equipment regarding this issue; they could not deny the possibility of exposure of a high voltage feed occurring without the circuit breaker tripping; however, none would take this matter further and are awaiting the NFPA to make code changes.

We contacted one of the "major" Automotive Manufacturers involved in the Electric Vehicle industry, to advise them of our concerns; they were surprised that the EVSE Manufacturers had not given consideration to this potentially hazardous condition and expressed their concerns as they have invested billions of dollars in this industry.

We filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Energy, Inspector Generals' Office; advised them of our concerns with the safety of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in the event a station is hit, run over, or damaged such that live power feeds are exposed. A Special Investigator from the D.O.E Inspector Generals' Office has responded to our complaint, advised that the D.O.E has determined that they have "buy-in" with respect to the safety of these devices, and are taking action by conducting a thorough investigation.

We notified the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration of this issue; the NHTSA has opened a case for investigation.

Because of the lack of movement and available training for our First Responders, we created a safety training program: "Electric Vehicle Safety Training for First Responders", to prepare Firefighters, Emergency Medical Staff, and other First Responders for catastrophic accidents and incidents involving Electric Vehicle Charging Stations. Our training program is available in two formats; a "Classroom" Course and "E-Learning" Course, both catering specifically to First Responders. Our training courses have been reviewed and approved by the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council and by the Florida State Fire College.

We are hopeful that your Agency gives careful consideration to the facts presented in this letter and take necessary steps to ensure for the safety and welfare of your citizens. We have State Senators, Fire Chief, Union President State Officials and City Officials endorsing our Training program and we hope you do also. Please give us a call to discuss our training program; we look forward to speaking with you soon.

Thank you,
James Maddox, Co-Founder I Co-Owner
502-774-0222 tel: 502-774-0222
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Visit our web site: www.chargingmyev.com