Supporters of EVs will tell you that an electric car is just like regular a car. For the most part, they’re right. You step on the pedal on the right and the car goes, you turn the wheel and the car turns, and the only real difference is what kind of fuel goes in it. We say stuff like that all the time, in fact. If we’re being completely honest, though, that’s only mostly true. 99% of the time the only difference is what kind of fuel goes into the car, but that last one per cent exists as well.
As EV owners and fans know well, electric cars are indeed much more fun due to their instant torque, and also benefit from the convenience of home charging. However, there are also things that can be confusing for newcomers. To provide explanations on such matters, we’ve launched a segment called “Electric Car FAQs” to answer those oddball questions that come up one per cent of the time. Today’s question: Is it safe to charge an EV in the rain?
While it’s true that water can conduct electricity and cause short circuits, the fact is that just about every electric car sold in the US today has been designed to work in a wide range of operating conditions. That doesn’t just mean “wet or dry”, either. It also means hot and cold, clean or dusty, and maybe even dry or oily. In other words, EVs are built to be used the way people use their cars – and a lot of people use their cars outside.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Autotrader.com interviewed Jonathon Ratliff, Nissan North America’s senior manager for zero-emission technology development at Nissan’s technical centre in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and asked him this same question. “Absolutely, it’s safe to charge in nearly any weather condition,” he answered. “That’s because electric vehicles are purposefully engineered to withstand rain and water intrusion, not to mention pesky dust particles that could wreak havoc on an electric system.”
Ratliff also added that the Nissan LEAF’s electrical system was actually rated to be safe while, “submerging any component of our vehicle in the water at 1 meter for 30 minutes … in other words, the rating more than exceeds anything you’d encounter when plugging your EV into a charging station in the rain.”
Still, there are no dumb questions when it comes to safety. You could probably argue that Ratliff has too much skin in the game to be 100% objective, too – so let’s try to get as objective as possible here and look at what the laws about electric car charging safety actually say.
A quick trip to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) website reveals that “federal law requires manufacturers to test many consumer products for compliance with consumer product safety requirements. Electric shock is among them.” If you want to dig even deeper, you can read this 2017 rule written by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) titled, “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Electric-Powered Vehicles: Electrolyte Spillage and Electrical Shock Protection,” but be warned – it’s not exactly a The DaVinci Code-level page-turner.
So, millions of people (and not just guys like Fritz Hasler) have charged millions of electric cars millions of times over the past decade or so of this modern electric car era, right? Some of those had to be in real-life conditions outside of a sterile lab, surely – so why is this still a question that’s being asked?
If the last decade or so of the American political circus has taught us anything, it’s that funny pictures with a couple of words attached to them are really, really effective at convincing simple-minded people that they understand complex sociopolitical and/or biomedical ideas. While I can sometimes fall for a good meme, myself, I have to admit that when that picture above of a flooded Tesla Supercharging station got posted to the EV Banter group on Facebook — well, I’m embarrassed to say that my first instinct was not the correct one.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I think I said, “Yeah, f**k that.” Meanwhile, visions of Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day dropping a toaster into his bathtub in a misguided attempt to end it all were running through my mind.
Here’s why that was wrong: engineers are smart.
There is zero chance the engineers who installed those chargers haven’t thought through this exact scenario at least a half-dozen times, and built-in any number of fail-safe and ground fault protection measures in the process. If there’s a short caused by the water, the most likely scenario is that the charger shuts itself off until the flood is over. If there’s no short – well, I’d probably look for a drier charger, myself (thank goodness for Chargeway), but there’s probably no danger.
Rain or shine, your electric car is ready to “top off” and hit the road.
Original content from CleanTechnica.