Electric Car Conversion Activities Can Be Deadly – Find Out Some Ways To Stay Alive
Why Electrical Safety Insulating Gloves Are Important
when I started working on my Electric Go Kart, I was working with 12 Volts. Now, I’m having thoughts of increasing the voltage and when I do my Electric Car Conversion, I will be working with voltages well above 12 Volts, so I will be dealing with lethal voltages. Mind you, 12 volts can be dangerous, especially if the amps are running through are high. I know because I once melted part of the skin on my fingers whilst doing auto electrical work with 12 volts on a car. What happened was that I incorrectly installed the insulating washer on one of my car alternators so when I connected the battery, there was an instant short circuit, with plenty of current and sparks as soon as I connected the battery lead to the battery terminal. This resulted in part of my skin melting and this was only with 12 volts.
So, when we are working on Electric Cars or Hybrid cars or doing an Electric Car Conversion, we need to be aware that we are working with electricity and electricity is dangerous. I can’t stress enough the precautions you need to take when working on Electric Cars. The problem with electricity is that you can’t see it. If you feel the effect, then it could be too late for you. What horrifies me more is that some publications on Electric Car Conversions don’t emphasize this point enough. In fact, I did not think much about it until I read an article in Popular Mechanics on How to Safely Work on Hybrid Electric Vehicles. So, what are some things you can do to reduce the dangers and risks to you when working on Electric Cars (including Hybrids) or when you are doing your Electric Car Conversion, noting that below is not a comprehensive list, but I plan to provide follow up posts if I come across more safety techniques.
- Turn off car and remove keys. Electric cars are silent. Just because the motor is not moving does not mean that other circuits on the vehicle are switched off. The electric motor could be ready to move if the vehicle is switched on. Vehicles with smart keys are even more tricky as the smart key only has to be in close proximity to the vehicle for the vehicle to be active. So it is best to pull out all keys from the vehicle and ensure any smart keys etc are at a distance from the vehicle. Find out how far smart keys need to be away from the vehicle and ensure any smart keys are away from the vehicle at a safe distance from the vehicle.
- Record radio presets and security codes. Just before you disconnect the accessories battery, also known as the low voltage battery, ensure you record any codes that need to be entered in when the vehicle is powered back on. Radio security codes are an example.
- Electrical Insulating Safety Gloves. Electrical Safety Gloves are a must when working with high voltages. You need to find out what is the highest voltage your Electric Vehicle including Hybrids could be present. Once, you know the voltages, get and wear gloves that exceed that voltage. So if your Electric Vehicle has 288 volts present, I would be inclined to get insulating gloves rated for 1000 volts. If you are working with higher voltages, then you will need to get insulating gloves with a voltage rating that exceeds the voltages you are working with. One thing to note with insulating gloves is that they are only effective when they are not broken and when they don’t have pin holes in them. As soon as they develop a hole, they are useless as insulating gloves. So before using your insulating gloves, check that it has not punctures in them. You can do this by checking if it is air tight. ie. let some air into the gloves. Then seal the gauntlet at the wrist end with one hand and squeeze the glove and check that it is air tight. Ensure you don’t get any grease, oil or fuel on the gloves as that destroys them, making them useless. Do note that these Electric Safety Insulating Gloves can develop holes easily so it is best to ask an expert what can be done to protect them. Some recommend wearing special leather gloves over the electrical insulating gloves.
- Disconnect the low voltage battery. Check the owner’s manual on how batteries should be disconnected, but usually, you should turn off radios and accessories, then remove the lead to the negative terminal.
- Service plugs or switches. Check the owner’s manual for instructions on disconnecting the traction battery pack. Some have service plugs which you pull out (whilst you wear your insulating gloves) or there may be switches. Either way, check your owner’s manual. If you did your own Electric Car conversion, then I hope you installed a mechanism to disconnect and isolate the high voltage battery pack and that this mechanism ensures there are no dangerous voltages lurking around.
- Assume all wires are live. Even if you have disconnected and isolated the wires, I would assume that any bare wire and any terminal to be live. I would wear the gloves if I had to touch bare wires. Also, ensure no other parts of your body are touching wires. I would even go as far as ensuring that I wear shoes that insulate you from 1000 volts (even higher if your electric vehicle has the potential to have higher voltages present). With high voltage electricity, you only get once chance in life and any mistake could prove fatal or cause serious injury.
My article is not a comprehensive list of safety precautions you need to take when working with high voltage Electric Cars. Unfortunately, I have not come across much in terms of safety precautions and I was not even aware that high voltage insulating gloves existed and had a voltage rating until recently when I picked up a Popular Mechanics magazine. A popular ebook I read about Electric Car Conversions had 1 sentence in the entire publication about wearing gloves, but did not specify what rating the glove should be. As I’m working on cars and done an Electric Go Kart conversion and looking to do an Electric Car Conversion in the future, I’m very keen to find out what I need to do to stay alive. Like with anything in life, there are dangers, but once you know what the dangers are and what to do, you can manage the risks and get something done. If you come across more ways to stay alive when working on Electric Vehicles, please leave a comment below or contact me. That would be appreciated.
I would also like to point out that working on gasoline or diesel engines also has its dangers, but the dangers are different.