New In The EU: EC welcomes accord on electric, hybrid cars

Typically, electric vehicles operate at very high voltages. Therefore it is essential to require protection against the risk of electric shocks.

The European Commission recently welcomed the adoption of the first international regulation on safety of both fully electric and hybrid cars, at the United Nations in Geneva. This decision could facilitate the early introduction of safe and clean electric cars onto our roads.
The technical regulation adopted at the UN 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 and are very promising as far as Israel and Israeli companies are concerned.
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.
It is hoped that 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 procedure that uses a standardized “test finger” to check protection all over the car. The rules are supposed to 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 upon as part of an international framework (the 1958 UNECE agreement), so that 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.
The new agreement is very important for Europeans since the EU is the world’s largest producer of motor vehicles. The automotive industry is therefore central to Europe’s prosperity. It is a huge employer of skilled workers and a key driver of knowledge and innovation. It represents Europe’s largest private investor in research and development. It also makes a major contribution to the EU’s Gross Domestic Product, and exports far more than it imports.
Europe sees competitiveness of the automotive industry as a key contributor to the strategic objective of the European Community to work toward creating long-term prosperity in Europe through sustainable and dynamic growth. These strategic orientations with respect to the automotive industry are translated and formulated into policy and regulatory actions with the help of the CARS 21 process. This process started as a high-level group that has later evolved into a permanent forum providing input in policy-making related to the automotive industry.
In the course of 2010, the European Commission aims to establish a European strategy on clean and energy-efficient vehicles. The strategy will propose the European action in the areas where it can have distinct added-value and complement the actions taken by the industry, and by national and regional public authorities.
The focus of DG Enterprise and Industry’s work on environment isprotecting air quality. The work so far has been with respect to carsand light commercial vehicles, for which new emission limits (Euro 5and Euro 6) have been introduced. The work on reducing emissions is inprogress in Europe for heavy duty vehicles (buses and trucks) with theEuro VI standards. Furthermore, the environmental requirementsapplicable to agricultural and forestry tractors and two- andthree-wheel motor vehicles (motorcycles) will be included in frameworkregulations covering those types of vehicles.
Ari Syrquin is the head of the International Department at GSCB Law Firm.