Electric vehicle charging

Tens of thousands of home EV chargers could be dangerous

Image credit: Photograph: Kanpisut Chaichalor, Dreamstime.com

The Department for Transport (DfT) has said it is working with industry to drive up standards after a leaked audit report it commissioned found that almost a fifth of household electric vehicle (EV) chargepoints inspected across the UK could be dangerous for users.

The report, which was not made public but has been seen by E&T, was compiled last summer by the Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies (Cenex) for the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV).

It shows that of the 371 audits carried out on electric vehicle chargepoints (EVCP) installed as part of the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), 66 were found to have dangerous or potentially dangerous issues in one or more categories. This represents 17.8 per cent of the installations audited.

Of all the new chargepoint installations carried out, only 32 per cent were recorded as satisfactory.

The findings prompted transport minister Rachel Maclean to write to all installers registered on the scheme to warn them that if necessary “we will remove companies and individuals found to be performing unsafe installations from our schemes and inform their electrical trade associations of our decision”.

In the email, also obtained by E&T, she said the results of the audit indicated that the requirements of the grant scheme, in particular the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s [IET] Wiring Regulations BS 7671 and the IET Code of Practice for Electric Vehicle Chargepoint Equipment  Installation, were “not being met in a number of installations”.

This includes installations going ahead “when there are issues with the existing distribution equipment or supply equipment”, the email read, suggesting that electricians are continuing to carry out installations despite faulty supplies to the property.

Maclean also said there had been examples of poor wiring during installation or deficiencies in the provision of Residual Current Device protection (RCDs).

RCDs are designed to prevent EV owners from getting a fatal electric shock if they touch something live, such as a bare wire. It can also provide some protection against electrical fires, according to the charity Electrical Safety First.

The latest report represented a slight improvement on the previous 2019 version when 23 per cent of installations were classed as dangerous or potentially dangerous.

But one registered installer, who spoke to E&T, said that dangerous installations “were still happening”.

Jordan Farley, managing director of Artisan Electrics, said: “There is a race to the bottom of EV chargers, where you get big national companies subcontracting them out.

“Auto manufacturers are offering to throw in free installation of an electric vehicle charging point when they get the car, so straight away they are going to be pressured into doing it as cheaply as possible. [This work] gets subcontracted out to a national EV installer who subcontracts it out to someone else and the margins get thinner and thinner and people are just pushed to do a cheap install or cut corners in order to make any money.”

The DfT said that homeowners and workplaces “were immediately informed during the audit about any safety issues and instructed not to use their chargepoints. They were further instructed to contact the relevant installer to fix the safety issues identified”.

However, so far, a total of 236,697 domestic charging devices have been installed under the EVHS, which provides EV owners with grants of up to £350 on EVCP installations. This suggests that there could be tens of thousands of dangerous installations that have not yet been identified.

An armoured cable incorrectly terminated into an electric vehicle charging point

An armoured cable incorrectly terminated into an electric vehicle charging point. Photograph: Artisan Electrics

A DfT spokesperson said the department was keeping electric vehicle and charger safety standards “under constant review”.

“Strict regulations are already in place and vehicles have built-in safety systems to protect road users and passengers. Following the 2020/21 audits, we instructed installers to rectify faults, worked with industry to drive up standards and are continuing checks to assess performance,” the spokesperson said.

They added that the government was also “raising the bar” to require EVCP installers to follow the latest British Standards and the IET's latest code of practice for Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment Installations.

The EVHS is due to end on 31 March for homeowners who live in single-unit properties. It will remain open to homeowners who live in flats or rented accommodation.

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