Electric Vehicles and Surge Protection Requirements | Kirsty Johnson, Surge Protection Devices


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Kirsty Johnson, Technical Sales Director at Surge Protection Devices, discusses surge protection requirements for EV charging point installations. The electric vehicle market is on the rise, according to the Society of Automobile Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). In January 2020, 4,054 were registered purely electric cars, but by January 2021 (despite the epidemic) that number was 6,260. These are sales of purely electric cars (not hybrid variants), so the market is a growing sector with a 54.4% increase. Traditional branded car manufacturers are now offering the ability to purchase our favorite cars, with a more environmentally friendly design. So we have to consider the electrical implications of installing an EV charger. To successfully reach the ambitious goals of reducing gasoline-powered cars and replacing them with electricity, the public must be reassured that they can charge their vehicle when they are out, which means that continued servicing of electric vehicle equipment is a major aspect of EV chargers. Often times, we all get anxious if we’re going to get to the gas station in time, but can you imagine hitting a service station only to find out that the chargers are out of service and the next station is 20 miles away? Not ideal for consumer confidence. To ensure continuity of service, the installer must understand where problems may arise. From the point of view of surge protection, careful consideration must be given to the electric vehicle charger installation. By their nature, electric vehicle chargers are sensitive (limited thrust bearing) and subject to excessive voltages. In fact, quite a few charging point manufacturers for electric vehicles will specify that the SPD must be installable or will mention surge protection in the product warranty details. Where are the risks of harm? Electric vehicle chargers are installed outside, and thus are prone to experiencing the effects of lightning strikes nearby. There is an increased risk of damage to the charger from the effects of lightning, if the installation is fitted with an external lightning protection system, or if the EV is provided directly from the main interior of the building being fed to an overhead source. Damage can also occur from the installation, in the form of an overvoltage switch. Excess voltages can also come from the supply network, or be generated by equipment within the electrical installation. This form of repeated overvoltage can damage critical components used in electric vehicle chargers. Also, electric vehicle chargers can cause electrical installation problems. We have to take into account that any cable that goes into the installation could bring with it the risk of overvoltage. As mentioned earlier, the effects of nearby lightning strikes pose a hazard to the electrical installation, along with the EV charger unit. Inverter technology can produce an overvoltage, which may cause damage to sensitive equipment inside the installation. Therefore, our risks are: a) damage to the electric vehicle charger b) damage to the vehicle c) damage to electrical installations using Section 443 in BS 7671: 2018, we can consider SPD requirements. As a reminder, 443.4 states that: Overvoltage protection must be provided as the consequences of overvoltage can: i. It results in serious injury or loss of human life ii. It leads to interruption of public services and / or damage to cultural heritage. It leads to the cessation of commercial or industrial activity. It affects a large number of individuals who are present in one place. An obvious starting place would be to consider a public service commitment. If the electric vehicle charger is for general use, then under the number 443.4, it must be protected by SPD. This binds to service continuity. If an electric vehicle driver arrives at a service station to find that the chargers are malfunctioning, it may cause a severe outage. There is also a life risk that must be considered if O-PEN is used. O-PEN devices are designed for use in installations where a PME grounding arrangement is present. When the PEN conductor breaks, the neutral voltage can rise with respect to the real earth and the normal protective earth forms the return path for any current that can flow. This may cause the connected vehicle to become alive, and if contact with the vehicle is subsequently made, there is a risk of electric shock. The O-PEN detects a voltage spike on the neutral and disconnects the supply to the car charger, if a fault occurs. A number of EV charger units now rely on O-PEN technology to separate current from the charger in the event of a malfunction. However, if this technology is damaged by the effects of lightning strikes or some other form of overvoltage, then disconnection will not occur. If a malfunction occurs, this may mean electric shock. For all EV installations, I recommend SPD, which is the protection of the car charger itself, along with the installation. According to BS 7671, this will then become a “must” surge protection to install on installations where the charger is for general use or O-PEN technology is used. Access free CPD online training and support for Surge Protection Devices by clicking here


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