[SystemSafety] Solar Storms and Charging Procedures for Electric Cars

Peter Bernard Ladkin ladkin at rvs.uni-bielefeld.de
Sun Apr 7 10:45:45 CEST 2013


There is an impressive array of new international standards being developed by IEC TC 69, 26 of them, of which thirteen concern conductive charging, the IEC 61851 series. Whatever one thinks of the standardisation process overall, and some of us have serious reservations about its efficacy in promoting best practice, for example for software safety, it can be very good at getting everyone to agree on how to do certain physical things. For example, the Europeans are close to agreement on the plug to be used for charging. To those with some idea of the history of failing efforts to get a common European wall-socket plug for building circuits, this is just a bit short of a miracle. 

I am running a group producing a risk analysis (in the sense of IEC Guide 51) of the charging process for electric road vehicles. There was and is stiff resistance from some quarters. I have pointed out that, first, IEC Guide 51 says that a risk assessment (compromising a risk analysis and risk evaluation) should be required in any safety-related IEC standard. Second that EC 765/2008 on product quality requires (Article 20) that products representing a serious risk be withdrawn from European markets, and that the judgment that products represent a serious risk be made through a risk assessment. This is European law. Since I have pointed that out in sufficiently general meetings, suggestions that the group's work is pointless have all but disappeared (although the will to limit its work has of course not, for this has other bases).

A few months ago, I posted on our blog a list of memes concerning the process of charging electric road vehicles and its possible hazards and risks. The reason was that certain sayings (arguments, memes or tropes) reappeared relatively often in the contributions of discussants in process of assessing the risks of charging systems and procedures for the electrotechnical standardisation effort in Germany. I received substantial comments from Martyn Thomas, David Ward and Mike Ellims, which I incorporated with permission, along with my original essay, into a document which has been distributed to pretty much everyone involved the E-Mobility standardisation effort in Germany.

It appears that certain memes addressed therein have now disappeared from German discussions. They no longer occur in documents, position papers and correspondence, and I no longer hear them advanced repeatedly in various committee meetings.

I like to think there is a causal relation between the effort to address the memes and their reduced occurrence.

Another issue recently came up which I don't currently have the expertise to address authoritatively. My group considering risks has suggested that intense solar storms, besides blowing out transformers and generally disrupting power supplies, plausibly have serious consequences for charging systems being used at the time, resulting worst-case in both the possibility of electric shock for people coming into contact with parts of it and of fire (we only consider "no harm", electric shock and fire as the outcomes of hazard situations). It has been suggested to the contrary that there is no plausible dangerous outcome concerning charging systems arising from solar storms that would not occur in much greater measure with the provision systems to which they are connected (in other words, don't worry about the risk because things surrounding it will be in worse shape).

What do people think about that? I would welcome references to available literature, especially that easily available on-line.


Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, University of Bielefeld and Causalis Limited

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