On 10 March the United Nations in Geneva adopted the first international regulation on safety of both fully electric and hybrid cars. The technical regulation adopted at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) ensures that cars with a high voltage electric power train, such as hybrid and fully electric vehicles, are as safe as conventional cars. Hybrid and electric cars are increasingly available on the market and are very promising in terms of making road transport clean and energy-efficient.
Typically, electric vehicles operate at very high voltages, in the range of 500 Volts. Therefore it is essential to require protection against the risk of electric shocks. The revised UNECE Regulation 100 will ensure the safety of electric cars by setting out how users of cars shall be protected from the high voltage parts of cars. For example, it prescribes a test procedure that uses a standardised 'test finger' to check protection all over the car. The rules ensure that users do not accidentally come into contact with high voltage cables. The Regulation also defines requirements on the practical use of electric cars, such as giving an indication to the driver that the electric engine is switched on, which otherwise cannot be heard and could therefore cause unwanted starting of the vehicle. It will also require safeguards to prevent electric vehicles from moving when being recharged.
The Regulation was agreed within an international framework (the 1958 UNECE agreement), so that car manufacturers will be able to sell their vehicles on the basis of common standards not only in the EU, but in a number of other important automotive markets, such as South Korea, Japan and Russia. Mutual recognition of approvals between contracting parties of the 1958 agreement will be possible as soon as the Regulation is applied. This will simplify the marketing of advanced electric cars and reduce costs significantly. The EU and Japan have already indicated that they intend to incorporate the new UNECE Regulation in their respective rules on technical standards for vehicles.