What we learned from the world's first hybrid and electric skills station at SkillsUSA 2018: A wake up call for automotive educators everywhere
just thought I would share this experience with you all, I wrote this article originally on LinkedIn for auto instructors and those involved in education, but thought it might be interesting for you as well. I'd be interested to know what you guys think about the topic.
HV Vehicles for the first time at SkillsUSA 2018
Lucas-Nuelle recently partnered with the SkillsUSA Automotive Service Technology Technical Committee to run the world's first ever skills station to test the competitors’ knowledge and skills on high voltage vehicles. SkillsUSA is one of the largest skills contests in the world and is for high school and college students in many different fields.
The task that was selected was a shut down, or isolation of the high voltage system. There were no faults to find or "tricks", just shut down the system and declare it safe before reinstating it. The CarTrain electric vehicle training systems which are part of the Lucas-Nuelle line up were used for this assessment. These systems have been designed to give a realistic experience, while being 100% safe for the competitors and onlookers. Safety has been one of the factors why hybrid vehicles have not been a part of any skills contests in the past. On reflection, this proved a sensible decision as had real vehicles been used, some competitors would have placed themselves in real danger.
Without going into details of the station, as many other countries now want to incorporate this into their skills events, I want to share with you the critical safety issues that we found during the competition. The competitors were given a selection of HV gloves, DMMs, measurement leads and other measuring and safety equipment; more than they needed to perform the task. This was designed to make the competitor consider the scenario and the options and make a choice, as we were testing who is the best of the best! A lot of students told us as they started the station that they had never studied or worked on hybrids or electric vehicles which was fair enough; not everyone is teaching it yet, but as they were told "all the information you need is in the supplied manual".
The skills gap with our next generation of technicians
The contest gave us a very interesting, honest look at the skills of the students that are being trained now and I think it is something that urgently needs to be addressed. We can’t allow these young trainees to be unprepared for something that may not be ubiquitous yet, but will be at some point in their career. These vehicles are out there en masse and almost every week we see a new model on the market and this trend will only continue. These vehicles are here to stay and it's not a big stretch to say that every technician in training right now, will be exposed to high voltage vehicles at some point in the not too distant future.
It's much better for a student to learn about what they need to do to keep safe while in school, than to wait until they are in the workshop, possibly under pressure to experience a high voltage vehicle for the first time.
The following are my findings on the station and what teachers need to focus on, at the very least, to ensure this new generation of techs are safe. Now, before you say "my program doesn't or can't afford the vehicles, or I don't have the expertize yet", just wait, I'm not talking technical things here, such as inverters, high voltage batteries and 3 phase motors, megaohm and milliohm testers. I'm talking pure safety, things that anyone can at least cover in any class. Those other things are very important and are absolutely necessary to train HV techs, but let’s make sure that all students are at least prepared for when the day comes that they will see a HV vehicle, whether they want to or not. If you are an instructor, or administrator, please take this into consideration.
Here are some of the things to pay attention to:
Gloves. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is the last line of defence and even if you have done everything else wrong, it should keep you safe. If you have the correct PPE that is. The competitors needed to select from various pairs of gloves. The students need to be aware of the following:
- Correct class of glove.
- Testing procedure.
- Date stamp.
- How to use leather gloves if used.
- We even witnessed some competitors remove HV components with no gloves at all!
Measuring equipment. One of the most important things to do when isolating the HV system, is to verify that the system has been isolated and there is no voltage measured in the system and ensure it is safe to work on. Correctly rated equipment in good condition is an imperative. The students need to be aware of the following:
- Correct CAT rating for the meter.
- Don't forget the leads for the meter!
- Some laws call for the use of the "one hand rule", ensuring that only one hand is in contact with the circuit at a time, to further reduce risk of electrocution.
Workshop manuals. RTFM (Read The Factory Manual!). You need to know what you are working on and understand when it is safe or not. We had students removing service plugs without gloves, taking the verification measurements at the wrong spots, not securing the vehicle against someone else starting it, amongst others, even though the procedure was clearly stated in the manual. This can be of course attributed to the pressure of the situation and no prior experience, but this will happen again one day with an impatient service manager, or a customer who needed the car an hour ago. The students need to be aware of the following:
- HV components (what to touch and what not to touch).
- Isolation procedure. There are many different ways and methods to shut down HV systems and students should be at least aware of them.
- Verification procedure. While every vehicle has many levels of failsafe built in, it is always important to test to make sure the voltage in the capacitors has dissipated.
- Lock out/Tag out. Placing the key and the service disconnect in a lock box will ensure that no one attempts to start the vehicle while you are working on it.
- Safety of others. You may be required to surround the vehicle with a safety barrier to ensure others are aware the vehicle must be avoided.
It’s time for a debate on training, licensing and its consequences for the industry
It’s time to start a discussion on what the future of technician training is going to be. From the SkillsUSA experience, I really feel that ALL technicians in training should be taught minimum safety standards for high voltage vehicles, even if they are not officially taking part in a HEV or EV program.
I have outlined here below a couple of examples from around the world to get a glimpse of what some countries are doing.
Some countries are pursuing licensing of HV technicians, for example, in the UK, the IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry, the UK’s Sector Skills Council for the automotive industry with national and international qualifications) is working with the UK government to ensure that adequate training is given to everyone and the approach to guarantee this would be to require technicians to be licensed to work on HV vehicles. The IMI has existing standards that have been developed and evolved as the technology changes that would form the basis of such training and the UK Department for Transport strategy paper, “Road to Zero” which underlines their commitment to work with the IMI and other keys stakeholders to move towards licensing. Many countries require a license to work on AC systems, so it is conceivable that licensing be required for working on HV vehicles.
Germany has a slightly different approach, their standards have been developed by the National Occupational Health and Safety Organisation (DGUV in German), so this means that training is now coupled to OH&S laws, so if you are hurt while working on HV vehicles and you have not done the correct level of training, you are not protected by these laws. This also includes the management of an organisation that must ensure that their employees have the correct level of training and correct safety equipment and tools needed to perform their job.
Both the German and UK training standards include various levels of training according the job requirements, such as stage 1 is a general awareness type of training for drivers, managers and other non-technical staff, stage 2 is for technical staff that can shut down a HV vehicle, and then work on the vehicle once it has been verified to be free of voltage. Stage 3 is working on live high voltage systems, such as high-level diagnostics and working on the high voltage battery. This training obviously requires the highest level of training and assessment. Another special type training is given specifically for fire fighters and rescue personnel on how to identify, approach and deal with damaged vehicles.
I can also imagine that it won’t be long before insurance companies require technicians working on vehicles to be certified or licensed before they can even touch the vehicles, as they will not accept responsibility for the technician or the vehicle owner/driver being hurt as a result of the repairs carried out by untrained technicians. Who would be liable in this case? The person who fixed the car, or the insurance company that authorized the repair? That’s not a trivial question.
Thanks for reading and please post your thoughts on the matter, or if you have any questions, please let me know!
Daniel, Loved your article. I welcome an opportunity for a podcast interview. I would love to get this 'story' told. Please reach out. ….
Great article! We have access to hybrid vehicles for training and demonstrating how to disable the high voltage system safely is the FIRST thing on our list! Thanks for the information..
Thanks Jim, and great that you have been doing this already!
Thanks for the comments and I'd love to talk with you about this. I'll be in touch!
It is amazing to me that teaching this technology has been neglected since the introduction of Hybrid vehicles almost 20 years ago. I hope that this is a wake up call for instructors and potential technician alike.
Hey Michael, thanks for the comment and yeah I see where you are coming from. I'm not saying there is no training going on, there are some amazing programs out there and I think everyone was just caught in the propaganda of "EVs and hybrids are never going to make it", but slowly everyone is seeing that they will be the future for the majority. Most instructors that I speak to now are realizing that they need to something about it. Thanks.
Daniel, awesome article, I couldn't agree with you more. As a hybrid vehicle technician working in at a Hybrid Shop franchise in northeast Philadelphia I work on several hybrids every week that come from relatively long distances to be worked on. You are 100% correct about the standard of training that should be required especially for safety reasons but also the sheer fact that this hybrid technology is changing extremely fast. With that being said I believe that our entire industry should be held to a much higher standard since human lives are at stake. Now there is very good training available to people if they're willing to travel and pay good money but I think in today's day and age in these technical schools training should be mandatory.
Hey David, thanks for your comments! Totally agree with you, there is plenty of training providers and training equipment is also starting to come onto the market (should have said full disclosure in the article, our company build such equipment, but I wanted to make it as neutral as possible), but the techs and garage owners need to want to do it. I think also there is some massive opportunities out there for workshops to specialize and become leaders in this area (they are out there already!). Part of the article that I refer to, the German Stage 3 training, working under high voltage has been introduced as the manufacturers are preparing their dealer network to repair high voltage batteries at the dealer level. Not replace the battery, but repair damaged cells, and batteries these days are a bit more complex and dangerous than the Prius batteries up until the latest version. This is a part of the challenge of teaching the technology, but also maintaining safety at all levels. It is going to be interesting! Thanks, Daniel
Do consider reaching out to Carm Capriotto with Remarkable Results. He and his show are a great asset to this Industry. I believe that a good deal of our conversation needs to revolve around making sure that we are doing what we need to do to attract and retain the brightest minds. Part of that is making sure that they are properly prepared before entering into the work force.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Thanks for that, I actually have been listening to RR for a while, so I am really happy to be asked to take part! There is a lot of conversation going on around the world about the skills shortage and what can be done, and as technology gets more complex, as you mention, we are going to need the best to come and join us!
Nice write-up Daniel! Hybrid and electric vehicle training is covered here in BC in Apprenticeship Level 1, "Implement specific safety protocols for hybrid and electric vehicles (EV)" and again in Level 4 "Diagnose and repair hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) systems".
This is something that we do take extremely seriously and not only on hybrid and EV systems, but we must also consider that the same level of caution should be exercised on any high voltage system such as GDI and diesel piezo injection systems, where there is a possibility of exposure to high voltage electrical shock.
One aspect that I am a proponent of, is proper work area preparation and security. While I am able to control my workshop more easily since I am in a separate building, others may work in shared workshop areas that cannot be readily locked down in the absence of a certified hybrid vehicle instructor, as in the case of break times. IOW, in an open live work area, all HV systems must be made safe and vehicles secured before exiting. Human nature being what it is, there are inquisitive and curious types who may enter a work area, where possible risks must be eliminated so that they pose no threats to such uncontrolled visitors.
Along with the requisite PPE discussions, safety glove demonstration, video, on-vehicle demonstrations and more, before my students are allowed to work at the vehicle under supervision, they must also complete an online SIM high voltage battery disable procedure, which isn't quite as simple as playing a video game until you win, since it can be a little tricky without reviewing some specific information.
However, a bigger challenge than in the training environment and generally far less-well controlled, is the workplace where technicians may routinely be handed repair orders, sometimes without verification of training, PPE, proper equipment and an appropriate work area. How trained, if at all, or prepared the shop may be, is dependent on management being conversant and compliant with required standards and workers who are willing to exercise their rights to refuse unsafe work. We can educate and prepare the students to work safely, but they must be able to identify the risks and act accordingly.
Related to training and certification standards, one of my co-workers is working on a provincially-funded project in this respect, so the need to assess and address the many possible scenarios has been recognized and training and certification related to hybrid and electric vehicle systems service, diagnosis and repair is currently being explored.
thanks very much for the comprehensive reply! Totally see it the same way and that's great that it is being covered like that early on, but as you mention, it is the existing techs and garages that also pose a risk. We are all going to have to do something about this in the near future I think.
I'd love to offer my assistance with the project that your colleague is working on, I have examples of training standards from all over the world if they need anything like that?
Hi Daniel. Could you send me your contact info to … please? My colleague is currently away on vacation, but I am sure that he will look forward to connecting with you when he returns. Thanks.
It was good to meet you last year at Skills and even better working with you and Chris this year.
Very nice article you have written and you are helping to get the ball rolling on this subject.
Hope to see you again next June.
Thanks a lot, was a pleasure to be working with you this year and a great team to be a part of, thanks for making us welcome!
So as a guy who just moved to a new shop that starting to get into hybrid repair where is the best place to find the proper equipment. You talked about needing it but what's required?
Hi Craig. Excellent questions! Below, I will "highlight" just a few of the routines, requirements and tools suitable for Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) ) and Electric Vehicle (EV) diagnosis and repair. This is just a glimpse and by no means a complete list or substitution for proper training and learning about the requirements in your area. Of course, the best place to start is at the beginning with some training from one or more of the reputable hybrid training providers, who specialize in the makes and models that you intend to service. This may include vehicle manufacturer training and/or training offered in the independent sector. Supporting learning materials should be useful towards safety, skills development, along with needed and nice to have equipment. This should set the scene for a safe work environment, based on knowledge about the workplace, appropriate tools and equipment required to maintain safety for all in the vicinity of a vehicle undergoing high voltage system repairs. You will need to locate whatever Federal/State/Municipal and/or Workers' Compensation regulations apply in your locale. This typically referenced in training, but is your responsibility to ensure compliance.
A simple rule to follow with hybrid systems, is to never ASSUME anything. Ensure that you have information applicable to the vehicle along with awareness of any service manual updates, bulletins etc, that may apply. Also, never work alone on a high voltage system. Always make an appropriate co-worker aware of the work being performed and ensure that worker is suitably protected in the event that they need to enter the work area. Some manufacturers or work environments require the presence of a non-conductive "shepherd's hook" in case of emergency electrocution of the worker.
Make sure that all keys/fobs are surrendered by the vehicle operator at time of repair order write-up to ensure that vehicles do not ready up during a diagnosis if someone with a key enters the shop within range of the vehicle. It is important to ensure that when disabling a high voltage system, to verify that the system does not power up with keys removed. One of my program graduates who performs hybrid and electric vehicle diagnosis recently reported encountering a total of 4 key fobs within a vehicle! He thanked me for emphasizing the importance of verifying that the vehicle will not power up with the fobs removed.
A simple lock out method is to secure all fobs in an locked toolbox drawer, making sure that it is beyond the vehicle perimeter range of the transmitter.
Extremely important for your safety and that of anyone working in the immediate vicinity, is that the work area is safe. No unauthorized persons should enter the work space and the work area should be defined and high voltage signage posted at entrances and at the vehicle where high voltage diagnosis and repair is being performed.
Be sure to understand the level of voltage potential within a hybrid or electric vehicle and be fully conversant with the caution decals affixed to components. Some systems may always be "hot" while others may be disabled. In other words, how might components with red, orange or other coloured labels present different risks. Decals appropriate to the level of risk and injury potential, must be observed.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be suitable for the work being performed. CSA/Z87 rated safety glasses with side shields when working within 50 feet of high voltage system service. Similarly rated full face shields provide higher levels of facial protection.
Date certified Class 0 rubber electrical gloves (leather over gloves required in areas where risk to glove damage higher). Here, once issued and opened, gloves must be inspected and re-certified every 6 months, while the user should inspect the gloves both before and after each use. Glove suppliers such as Salisbury have glove application and inspection videos online, as does the Lineman's Testing Laboratory of Canada. youtube.com/watch?v=KnTcem…
Depending upon use, rating and company policies, more frequent testing may be a company rules. In other words, know what is required. I usually have one pair of gloves ready for use and one pair out for testing and re-certification. We use a local electrical supplier with good turn around time. Some coverall service providers offer glove testing and certification services.
Clothing should be cotton or fire retardant and all jewelry, metal objects etc, should be removed from pockets and person. If wearing a belt with a metal buckle, rotate the buckle away from the work.
In Canada, CSA standard work footwear that is rubber soled and carries the symbol identifying it to be electrically safe construction, is required.
As far as tools are concerned, Digital Multi-Meters leads, alligator clips and probes must be CAT III rated and probe tip caps installed. Any connection to a high voltage system must be CAT III. When disabling a high voltage energy source, it is highly recommended to follow some basic practices such as following the "Live, Dead, Live" process where the DMM is first connected to a low voltage power supply such as the 12 volt vehicle battery, followed by the high voltage check and then without changing any DMM settings, back to the original power supply. This verifies that the DMM did not fail to identify a high voltage potential.
We use the one-hand process, with the right hand (furthest from the heart) to make connections using alligator clips rather than probes wherever possible, starting with the negative DMM lead, then connect the positive lead alligator clip.
Once the system has been verified to be electrically disabled (HV energy source isolated) the gloves can normally be removed to allow improved manual dexterity of circuits and components no longer subjected to high voltage. However, it must be kept in mind that there may be times where a vehicle high voltage system must be re-enabled to perform specific tests with some covers removed exposing the technician to high voltage and it can be an easy mistake to forget "gloving up" and wearing the required PPE.
Regarding tools used during high voltage component service such as within the "always live" HV battery container, they must be electrically insulated. These are typically orange in body colour with yellow under surface colour. If the orange insulation is breached with the yellow showing through, it is considered to be no longer safe. A typical service socket set and torque wrench are shown below.
Be sure that any DMM or test equipment is of known quality that is approved for use in CAT III work. I recommend viewing the Fluke Electrical Measurement Safety video download.fluke.com/video-safety/f… While the initial part of the content at first appears to be related to industrial applications, there is much useful information throughout the video. In my work, I use a range of Fluke DMMs and must be careful to use a CAT III DMM, leads and accessories. While older Fluke 87 models may display 1000v rating between the jacks, only DMMs with the additional CAT III rating manufactured and certified to the later standards are considered safe to use. See examples of DMMs I use below.
In the educational environment, we are required to maintain a safe and secure work area, meaning that no unauthorized access is allowed. In the event that the instructor is not present, the area must be secured, which for me is straightforward, since my small building is not accessible from other work areas. In a general training work space, this takes some extra measures to ensure that no live high voltage system is accessible from others entering the space. This is just as important in a repair facility, but likely less well adhered to.
So, keep in mind that if you go for a break, the area has been made safe and secure. Regarding the work area, I stanchion and tape off the work area and post signage on the vehicle and components being worked on. No students are allowed to be present in the work area unsupervised at any time.
You might find this video by John Kelly of Weber State University to be informative. youtube.com/watch?v=Fgs46P…
There are a variety of signs available through simple online searches warning of high voltage dangers. So Craig, while it may take some time and investment to accumulate all the pieces of the "puzzle", setting the safety scene in the work place to alert others that high voltage diagnosis and repair is being performed, requires very little expenditure and time.
Thank you!!! That information is exactly what I was looking for.
All I can add as a technician who works on hybrids day in and day out, the gloves are not practical!! I dont mean they are uncomfortable to wear, I mean no actual work can realisticlly be done with the gloves on.
My advise to any trainers, or techs unfamiliar with hybrid systems, is to teach/learn where to measure with a proper DMM to ensure the hybrid system is safe to work on.
Great summary Mike, thanks very much! I didn't go into such detail in my original post as I was trying not to give away too much info to next years competitors, but in a venue like this, what you have written, is perfect!
Thanks Daniel for providing such a well needed station at Skills Nationals this year! I was impressed by the thoroughness of your station and look forward to he awareness that it will continue to bring to hybrid safety. Good job!