What to consider before introducing electric vehicles to enforcement fleets

What to consider before introducing electric vehicles to enforcement fleets.

With enforcement firms diversifying into new areas, such as recovering penalties for infringing clean air zones, enforcement industry specialist Darren Coldspring from Verlingue, a leading UK chartered insurance broker, shares his insight into the risks and rewards of adopting electric vehicles.

Last year the government announced they will be bringing forward the phase-out date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2030. The government drive for zero-emission vehicles and a green economic recovery will see businesses review and change the way they operate in the coming years. One way they will do this is through the adoption of electric vehicles into their fleet. This will result in a whole host of new potential hazards that businesses need to consider and link with any other piece of work equipment, the employer has a duty to ensure safety and manage the risk.

There are generally three different types of electric vehicle:

  1. Fully electric
  2. Only uses electricity for power. These are the ones which do nothing without a charge and there still exists considerable range anxiety amongst potential users. They also take a lot longer to charge up.
  3. PHEV plug-in hybrid.
  4. Typically has a range of about 30 miles on electric alone and then the fossil fuel engine kicks in. Some models can recharge the drive batteries, some can’t. All can be plugged in to the mains in one form or another.
  5. Mild hybrids.

These are not plugged in and have a much smaller battery. The idea is that the electric motor will assist the fossil fuel engine in some way or another and they may be able to travel for very short distances on electric power like a mile or so.

The fleet market is beginning to take an interest from both an economic point of view, where vehicles typically do lots of local runs and can charge up regularly, and also an environmental one, as the vehicles are seen to be more environmentally friendly, at least in the use stage, if not the build stage.

What are the risks?

Electricity can be dangerous when uncontrolled. A “belt” from the household mains can kill and the drive batteries in cars can do the same. The batteries also carry with them their own risks. Car drive batteries are basically lots and lots of laptop batteries added together. So, it’s important to consider what would happen in a major accident if the battery pack is ruptured and you are inside the vehicle.

There are also charging risk with batteries. Gases can be released and these are highly flammable. One spark is enough to cause an explosion with hydrogen. Fortunately, modern battery construction is very robust and potential incidents from charging scenarios are minimised by the manufacturers at source. Unfortunately, there is no proper standardization yet, so you might turn up somewhere and find they don’t have your charger type.

Who is responsible for related safety processes?

Employers have the same duty to safety and risk management as with any other piece of work equipment, be it a vehicle or the charger on the wall. Employers have a duty to ensure electrical safety for their employees and other visitors to their premises, as well as protecting any electrical equipment provided.

You should assess any significant risk as a result of the use of electric vehicles and come up with a safe system of work to use them. This may include keeping charging areas clear of combustibles, no smoking, no charging left overnight on work premises and training for employees in the risk and process of charging, including at home. You also need to know where to put the chargers at work.

Before installation, you should review your fire risk assessment to see if there are any additional risks. Putting the charging point next to the fire exits from the building, near any fuel tanks or the waste storage area is not a good idea. If you have to put charging areas underground, are there any fire reduction processes in place such as additional electrical extinguishers? The charging station would also become part of your fixed electrical system and would need to be tested in accordance with appropriate legislation.

If you have any questions regarding adopting electric vehicles into your fleet and managing the risks involved, you can contact me via email.

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