Written by: Griffiths & Armour on: 15 Feb 2022

Electric Vehicles – The New Norm, With New Risks

Electric Vehicles - The New Norm, With New Risks | Griffiths & Armour

The UK Government has committed to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and as a consequence, the UK automotive industry is required to make a significant commitment to bring this to fruition. There are environmental concerns over the emission of greenhouses gases, such as CO2 which is present in both petrol and diesel, and intrinsically more and more businesses are looking to achieve ‘Net Zero’ by a defined date. In an attempt to further improve air quality, the UK Government are also initiating ‘Clear Air Zones’ in some cities and highly polluted areas, which means that certain ‘non eco-friendly’ vehicles, will be charged to drive in those vicinities.

Businesses with a fleet of vehicles therefore have little choice but to start planning for the transitional process from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to vehicles with alternative power sources. There are a number of alternatives to petrol and diesel fuel powered vehicles emerging but the most prolific at present is electricity, and on a daily basis, we are seeing a notable increase of Electric Vehicles (EVs), also termed ‘battery-powered’ and ‘plug-ins’, on our roads.

Although EVs may be less polluting to the environment, they do nevertheless bring about their own risks so from a risk management perspective, the Risk Management team at Griffiths & Armour have highlighted their Top 10 considerations to take if you own an EV fleet or are considering purchasing a vehicle or fleet of vehicles of this type in the future.

Top 10 Risk Management Considerations For Electric Vehicle Owners

  1. The most common battery type used in EVs at present are lithium-ion batteries, and as has been well documented in media reports and across social media, fires involving these batteries can often be very intense and on occasion, cause significant damage. Such batteries can also re-ignite after extinguishment. Fire safety in relation to property therefore needs to be considered, not least whilst vehicles are charging, and particularly in respect of adjacent parked vehicles, buildings, storage areas and confined locations such as underground or multi-storey car parks.
  2. If you are responsible for charging points being installed at your place of work, we would strongly recommended that the potential hazards and control measures be considered as part of the fire risk assessment of the site. From an insurer perspective, it is often their preference for charging points to be located externally and at least 10 metres away from the business premises. The area should be well ventilated and no items of a combustible or flammable nature should be stored within the charging area. The location should also be safe and secure to minimise risk of illicit use, vandalism or theft. The selected location for the charging points should have ample space to allow vehicles to enter, exit and be parked safely, and for a good connection to be made to the charging equipment. Hatching to define the designated vehicle charging parking area should be clearly marked on the ground. Signage should also be displayed at each charging point, to advise what the equipment is e.g. DC fast charge or non-rapid charging, and the vehicle(s) it is suitable for. It is imperative that charge points are to be installed by competent, qualified engineers. It is a requirement for the engineer to be compliant with the IET Code of Practice: EV Charging Equipment Installation. Once in-situ, they should form part of the sites maintenance schedules and weekly documented workplace inspections, so that any damage is identified and rectified as soon as possible.
  3. During the charging process, a cable needs to run from the charging point to the vehicle and this in itself creates a potential accident and tripping hazard. Caution should therefore be taken in these areas and the hazard identified, for example with clear signage, to persons within the vicinity.
  4. Driving an EV is a very different driving experience and as such, it is strongly recommended that appropriate driver training be provided, and that drivers understand the risks associated with handling such vehicles. Driver training can reduce the crash risk as well as maximising the longevity of the vehicle. Drivers will benefit from knowing about:
    • The safe use of chargers.
    • Maximising efficiency.
    • Watching their speed, as faster speeds use more energy.
    • Instant torque and acceleration.
    • Regenerative braking.
    • Avoiding unnecessary acceleration and braking.
  5. EVs have range limitations in respect of mileage and there are a number of factors that can affect this range that drivers also need to be aware of. These include:
    • Driving behaviour.
    • Speed and acceleration.
    • The weight and load in the vehicle.
    • The use of in-vehicle equipment.
    • Tyres and tyre pressure.
    • Road topography.
    • The frequency of battery being charged.
  6. Charging times of EVs vary considerably but ultimately it takes much longer than when filling a conventional vehicle with petrol or diesel fuel. Drivers must therefore pay attention to an EV’s state of charge and carefully plan their journey to incorporate routes that have suitable charging points along the way and build in adequate time to allow for charging to occur. Doing this will reduce the risk of ‘range anxiety’ i.e. the fear of running out of power on a journey and, more importantly, actually running out of charge.
  7. If you are a business that involves the storage of new EV batteries at a commercial premises e.g. motor repair workshops, and subject to the quantities of batteries being stored, consideration should be given to:
    • the undertaking of a DSEAR Risk Assessment;
    • storing in a suitable non-combustible external facility e.g. metal shipping container;
    • ensuring there is no exposure to water or other liquids;
    • ensuring ventilation and any sources of ignition sources are appropriate;
    • and that procedures need to be in place to check for signs of damage to batteries.
  8. Any batteries which are damaged should not be disposed of with general waste or placed in recycling bins. If handling batteries is required, PPE such as safety goggles, gloves and aprons, should be worn. Damaged batteries should be put in a plastic bag, taken outside and placed in a container of sand or similar which is located away from buildings and combustible materials. Protection from the elements should also be provided until the damaged item(s) are collected by an approved waste removal company.
  9. Noise or lack of it, is also a hazard. By virtue of an EV not having a combustion engine, drivers should be aware they are significantly quieter when operating on roads than other vehicles. This can pose an increased risk to vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and visually impaired pedestrians.
  10. Cyber risks should also not be overlooked as in-vehicle technology and charging points are continually developing. They rely heavily on software, data and artificial intelligence and as such are potentially vulnerable to software problems, system failures and cyber-attacks.

Did you find this article interesting? Or do you have any questions from the information provided? Please get in touch with Cath Swindells using the enquiry feature below or by contacting your usual point of contact at Griffiths & Armour.

Cath Swindells | Griffiths & Armour