Earlier this summer, the newly formed Electric Vehicle Standards Panel (EVSP) of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) held its first face-to-face meeting of major EV stakeholders. It initiated work on a strategic roadmap, identifying the standards and conformity-assessment programs needed to enable the widespread acceptance and deployment of electric vehicles and associated infrastructure in the United States. ANSI appropriately held the meeting in Detroit—the Motor City—and, of course, the National Electrical Contractors Association was there.

ANSI is a private nonprofit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems and personnel in the United States and also coordinates U.S. standards with international standards. ANSI formed the EVSP to offer an open forum that focuses on such standardization issues as design, performance, safety, testing, certification and training related to the EV market.

EVSP efforts are intended to be complementary to other standardization activities, within the United States and abroad, including those of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, Underwriters Laboratories Inc., the International Electrotechnical Commission, the International Organization for Standardization, and others. As I previously reported, NECA is developing a Standard for Installing and Maintaining Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) through the ANSI-approval process as part of our series of National Electrical Installation Standards.

At the initial meeting of the EVSP, groups were formed to identify concerns and develop action plans. Mike Johnston, executive director, standards and safety, and Rob Colgan, executive director, market development, represented NECA. NECA is active on the panel’s infrastructure installation working group where Mike and Rob serve as principal and alternate representatives, respectively. This working group identifies and provides to NECA information as the development of our EVSE standard progresses.

NECA is also active in the Electric Vehicles Industry Training Partnership (EVITP), a coalition of EV manufacturers, charging station developers and service providers formed to prepare a ready force of trained and certified electricians and electrical contractors familiar with the unique characteristics of EVSE technology. When EVITP Partner Advisors met in April for a Master Train-the-Trainer program for the installation of electric vehicle supply equipment, the first event of its kind for the EV industry, NECA was there, too.

And so were more than 50 participants—master electricians, each with at least five years of field experience and a professional instruction background—from 25 U.S. markets. Upon successful completion of the rigorous three-day program, master instructors returned to their home markets to train additional EVITP instructors and hold work force-training courses.

Also, Mike and Rob are now jointly leading NECA’s new EVSE Management Workshop, a program that offers essential information about the growing opportunities for electrical contractors in supporting EVSE installation services and details about performing site assessments, coordination of electrical permits and inspection processes, and a review of EV supply equipment and required branch circuits.

NECA is also working on initiatives with a wide variety of other stakeholders in the EV market and with Congress. Right now, our association is closely monitoring two recently introduced bills that promote the deployment of plug-in electric drive vehicles (H.R. 1685 and S. 948), so we can jump into action when the time is right to push them to passage. This legislation could help create jobs and end America’s dependence on foreign oil by extending a tax credit related to EVSE, grants to selected communities to demonstrate widespread deployment of electric vehicles, and other measures to incentivize both deployment and domestic production of the needed vehicle components and charging infrastructure. The bill is also supported by a broad coalition of business leaders and national security experts.

And, even before any of this happened, NECA issued a position statement advocating for the creation of a safe and accessible charging infrastructure to promote and support expanded use of electric vehicles nationwide. Our statement also recognizes that the installation of electric vehicle supply equipment is indisputably electrical work that should be subject to the same workmanship and safety requirements as traditional electrical work.

The EV market offers tremendous opportunities for electrical contractors. NECA’s enthusiasm and commitment to this emerging market are demonstrated by our association’s involvement in developing a robust support system for EVs, and we’re going into overdrive to help make this market grow.

If you want to grow along with it, now is the time to invest in some research and training. EVs and EVSE will be a prominent focus of the Energy Forum and other events at NECA 2011 San Diego this fall, but I suggest you get started today. Don’t let the opportunities pass you by!