Danger: High Voltage!

New technologies such as the electric car demand new skillsets. In the field of high-voltage technology, automotive manufacturers are upskilling their workers. Numerous suppliers, workshops and fleet managers rely on DEKRA’s expertise to train and qualify their employees as electricians.

Voltage testing: For certain jobs on high-voltage systems, protective wear is a must. Photo: Honkphoto - Holger Kiefer

Voltage testing: For certain jobs on high-voltage systems, protective wear is a must. Photo: Honkphoto – Holger Kiefer

While the powertrain of the future remains a hot topic for discussion around the world, the number of electric vehicle registrations has been rising steadily for a number of years. Nowhere more so than in China, where more than 1.2 million battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) were sold in 2018 alone. By the middle of 2019, sales of electric vehicles had already surpassed 628,000. The United States is the second largest market for e-vehicles with around 150,000 units sold, followed by Germany, Norway and France. According to the Center of Automotive Management (CAM), around 5.6 million electric passenger cars and light commercial vehicles were registered worldwide at the start of 2019. Technological progress is likely to further fuel this development. Toyota, for example, has made the industry sit up and take notice with its current research into solid state batteries, which are considered more powerful and longer lasting than the lithium-ion battery. Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi promises the production of at least 5.5 million electric vehicles by 2025 – including one million with all-electric drivetrains.

In Flux

At Volkswagen, the proposed answer to the question of mobility’s future is also the battery. For this reason, the world’s largest car manufacturer is implementing radical changes at its Zwickau facility, which Managing Director of Technology & Logistics at Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH Reinhard de Vries describes as “perhaps the greatest challenge in the history of the automotive industry.” VW has set itself the goal of market leadership with its “ID.” Model range, the newest generation of BEV Volkswagens. At the plant that currently manufactures the Golf, Golf Variant and E-Golf, the first ID.3 is scheduled to roll off the production line in the fall of 2019. Pre-orders for this first model in the ID. range commenced in May. Within just a few days, more than 30,000 pre-orders were received, according to Volkswagen.

Specialists are required for high-voltage technology. Illustration: DEKRA

Specialists are required for high-voltage technology. Illustration: DEKRA

Overall, VW is investing approximately 1.2 billion Euros in upgrading to the new “Modular Electric Drive Matrix” (MEB). “Based on the MEB, we intend to launch a total of 70 battery and 30 hybrid models through our Group brands by 2028,” explains de Vries. The MEB also plays a key role in the strategic alliance of Volks-wagen and Ford, which was made public in July. In line with this, the electric platform developed by VW will also be made available to manufacturers outside the VW Group and may thereby become the industry standard. Ford wishes to use the Modular Electric Drive Matrix in developing additional models. In addition, Volks-wagen is investing 900 million Euros in Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt. The goal of this joint venture is to establish a VW-owned manufacturing facility for batteries.

Volkswagen has committed more than 15 million Euros to ensure its employees are prepared for the production of electric vehicles. Special training will be provided to the 8,000 employees located at the Zwickau plant in order to familiarize them with the particulars of electric-powered mobility. Nearly 1,500 employees have been trained as high-voltage technology specialists since last year. After all, this is a field in which specialists are both an absolute necessity, and a rarity. This therefore places them in high demand on the international market.

Those without access to these experts face the terrible prospect of a shutdown. Legislation surrounding work with high-voltage vehicles is strictly regulated Europe-wide. By having a variety of qualification levels, employees and ultimately employers should be able to protect themselves. In Germany, Statutory Accident Insurance (DGUV) monitors regulatory compliance. In line with this, only certified electrically qualified persons may carry out, manage or supervise work on vehicles featuring high-voltage systems. Accordingly, pressure on the automotive industry to provide such specialists is high. Even cleaners working in the vicinity of high-voltage vehicles must be trained in dealing with this technology.

Internal know-how

Other automotive manufacturers are also acutely aware of high-voltage technology. “Working with high-voltage technology has been a key part of our training for vehicle mechatronics specialists for almost a decade. Over the course of 130 hours, apprentices become qualified as specialists in high-voltage systems for motor vehicles. Also on offer are opportunities for internal and external training and further education,” explains Oliver Wihofszki from Daimler’s Human Resources and External Affairs department in Stuttgart, Germany. Audi too is building its internal electromobility expertise. “Last year, the Audi Group carried out around 8,000 training sessions in electromobility,” says Daniela Henger, Press Spokesperson for Human Resources and Organization. For this reason, the training budget at Audi’s main base in Ingolstadt, Germany was increased by a third, up to 80 million Euros this year. “We continuously realign our training and qualification concepts to match technological progress and, if necessary, develop new job profiles.”

DEKRA training in Germany High-Voltage Systems in Cars

Four Self-Directed Training Units (web-based Subjects)
• General tasks without de-energizing the high-voltage system (HV)
• Non-permitted work on the vehicle
• Electrical hazards and first aid
• Fundamentals of electrical technology
• Admission exam

Eight Classroom Training Units with Practical Element Subjects
• HV concept and vehicle technology
• Electrical systems and equipment
• Protective measures against electric shocks and arcing
• De-energizing and securing HV systems
• Determining de-energized status

Blended learning concept

While the aforementioned automotive manufacturers rely on their own internal training capabilities, other suppliers, workshops and start-ups take a different approach and generally fulfil the growing demand for high-voltage experts by employing external qualification and certification measures. A figure of competence in this regard is DEKRA. The internationally active expert organization offers customers a so-called blended learning concept for high-voltage training, which divides the required training to become an electrically qualified person into two parts. Boris Gausmann, DEKRA Expert for High-Voltage Technology, and colleague Benno Rauhut educate and train specialists on how to work with electric vehicles, doing so Germany-wide. Among their customers are diverse automotive suppliers, as well as public transit authorities that employ electric buses. The high-voltage expertise of DEKRA is also in high demand in the area of logistics and infrastructure for the charging of electric vehicles. For example, Dutch company Allego, a leading provider of charging solutions.

The main relay and fuse box of an electric car is used for a demonstration. Photo: Mario BrunnerMeasurement essentials are taught using a de-energized electric vehicle. Photo: Mario BrunnerType-specific Certain electric vehicle models need to go on the hoist in order to be de-energized. Photo: Mario BrunnerParticipants’ questions are answered in detail. Photo: Mario BrunnerThe visual inspection of electrotechnical installations is also part of the training. Photo: Mario Brunner

Gausmann explains a key focal point in the first phase of training: “In the field of machine-to-person communication in particular, operator error must be avoided and one’s awareness of hazardous situations around high-voltage vehicles must be honed.” Companies may opt to have their employees receive web-based training from the DEKRA experts. Comprehension of the fundamentals of electrical technology is then tested in an exam, success in which is prerequisite to admission to the subsequent one-day face-to-face classroom session. Training continues with theoretical and practical knowledge around the concepts of high-voltage and vehicle technology. In addition, training is given in protective measures against electric shocks. These can occur when, for example, a non-insulated tool makes contact with a system under voltage or when necessary safety distances are not maintained. “The danger is very hard to assess. Unfortunately, electricity can neither be heard, seen nor smelled,” states Boris Gausmann. Arcing also presents a great danger to technicians. This refers to the discharge of electrically-charged gases between two electrodes, and is caused by malfunctions. Safety can only be assured if the high-voltage system is de-energized. The ability to handle high-voltage components is confirmed with a DEKRA certificate.

Preventing accidents

DEKRA’s course offerings are in high demand in Germany, an indication of the high quality of training at the DEKRA Akademie, which is responsible for issuing these certifications. “It is also an indication that the industry is very keen to accept this support,” says Boris Gausmann. “We increase our seminar participants’ awareness of the dangers of high-voltage technology in order to prevent possible accidents. At voltages of 700 volts and more, unfaltering attention is required. A tiny mistake can have fatal consequences. Our job is to eliminate fear while preventing negligence. This way, work with the high-voltage systems can be performed safely.”

Boris Gausmann. Foto: Honkphoto Holger Kiefer

Photo: Honkphoto Holger Kiefer

Boris Gausmann
DEKRA Qualification GmbH
Handwerkstraße 15
D-70565 Stuttgart

Tel: +49 711 7861-3669

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