SEK Svensk Elstandard: The biggest risk in electric car charging

In Sweden, the number of clean electric vehicles is increasing rapidly, while we are struggling to find enough power. According to Ingvar Eriksson, technical expert at SEK Svensk Elstandard, we need to take control of our charging stations and understand the importance of charging safely.

– By far the biggest risk when it comes to electric vehicle charging is when people try to charge their electric vehicles via ordinary wall sockets. The dangers relate to the high current that lasts for a long time. That’s where things can go wrong, Ingvar says.

SEK Svensk Elstandard is a non-profit association responsible for all standardisation in the electrotechnical field in Sweden. Today, the association consists of approximately 100 technical committees staffed by about 800 experts. These are the people who do the standardisation work in everything from electrical installation and nanotechnology to light fittings. Ingvar, who is one of these technical experts, is also responsible for the standardisation groups working on light fittings, electrical installation materials and machine safety.

– Of all the questions we receive at SEK Svensk Elstandard, more than half are about electrical installations. This also includes electrical installations for charging electric vehicles, Ingvar says. He goes on:

– Based on the questions we receive, the industry is not yet fully aware of the rules governing electrical installations for electric vehicle charging. And we can see that we have not yet reached the peak number of clean electric vehicles in Sweden. Given the number of vehicles, more people are likely to charge from ordinary sockets, for example at their summer homes. Even though the vast majority charge from charging stations.

What risks are involved in charging electric cars?

When an electric car is charging, it requires a very high current for a long time. Using a standard wall socket or electrical installation not designed for charging electric vehicles adds a lot of risk. Our standard wall sockets are simply not designed for that kind of load for long periods.

– The biggest danger is in the electrical installation behind our wall sockets where there may be connections from wall socket to wall socket, for example. In all these places where there are electrical junctions, there is an additional risk of hot spots. If you don’t keep an eye on your electrical installation, the connections in a socket inside the house, for example, can become so hot that a fire breaks out, Ingvar says

SEK Svensk Elstandard stresses the risk of charging from your normal wall socket and recommends that all electric car owners charge their cars via a proper charging station. Ingvar also believes that a charging box on a cord that you plug into a normal wall socket should only be seen as an absolute emergency solution.

– For example, if you go to a relative’s house that only has regular wall sockets and you realise you need to charge your electric car, you should really think about not charging with more current than you need. You may not even need to charge fully. It’s better to charge safely. With lower current and no more than absolutely necessary.

Charging stations need to be controlled

One of the major challenges facing the electricity industry is the lack of capacity in the grid. At the same time, the Swedish Energy Agency says that Sweden may need twice as much electricity in just ten years. Although the range of recently manufactured electric cars has increased, their growing number is making it difficult to produce power in sufficient quantity.

– The more parking spaces with charging stations we have, the more of the available power we will use. It’s already a problem for many electricity suppliers that they can’t supply as much electricity as we users want. It’s a challenge for the whole transition we’re now in, Invar says.

He continues:

– We also need to enable more housing associations and the like to set up charging stations while at the same time exercising some form of control over them, so that they can use the available power from the grid. You are not guaranteed the maximum charging current all the time, but you can at least charge your car at home.

Another challenge, apart from electrical safety or electric vehicle charging, is the lack of manpower in the electric power industry. Ingvar says this applies to many more countries than just Sweden and describes it as a brake on progress.

– To address these challenges, we also need people who actually build our grids.

At Elfack 2023, Ingvar Eriksson from SEK Svensk Elstandard will highlight rules, recommendations and frequently asked questions about electric car charging in a workshop together with Mikael Carlson from the Swedish Electrical Safety Agency. Elfack brings together the electrical and lighting industry in Sweden to exchange knowledge and meet common challenges. Read more about Elfack 2023.