A decade ago, electric vehicles (EVs) started gaining traction on the U.S. East and West Coasts and in Texas, but movement away from petroleum-fueled vehicles seemed to stall in the Midwest.
Even so, as early as 2010, the mother of all local IBEW unions, IBEW 1 in St. Louis, played a key role in preparing electricians to install EV infrastructure.
IBEW 1 worked with IBEW Local 134 in Chicago to develop the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP). The nationwide program centers on Article 625 of the National Electrical Code and certifies journeymen for installing EV charging stations.
Linda Little, assistant director at the IBEW/NECA Electrical Industry Training Center in St. Louis, and Jeff Holmes, an instructor at the center, were heavily involved in the program’s establishment.
The certification course includes 18–20 hours of training on the NEC, EV development, charging station types and how to calculate the electrical loads needed for charger operation.
“Load calculation is an important piece of the instruction,” Little said. “Any electrician can install a charging station, but what happens after they leave? If it’s a homeowner, can they still cook while their car is charging? This is a continuous load, meaning it can take more than three hours. It’s maximum current that produces heat and reduces current to other parts of the electrical system.”
“A lot of the installations are being added to existing electrical systems, so it’s important to be able to explain to customers what their systems can handle,” Holmes said. “A company may want 10 chargers ... but their system can only handle eight or six.”
Early on, the St. Louis training center saw plenty of journeymen signing up for the six-week certification class. Among them was Kenny Edgar III, IBEW 1 treasurer and journeyman of 31 years.
“I took the training so I would be able to do the job properly,” Edgar said.
A year later, Edgar installed six charging stations in the employee parking lot for electric utility Ameren Corp.’s facility in St. Louis.
“It was a fun job, but I haven’t done a lot of those sorts of jobs since,” he said.
By 2015, EVITP training offered by the St. Louis training center wasn’t drawing many applicants either, Little noted. Holmes and Little speculated that the push to establish EV infrastructure wasn’t as intense in the Midwest as in California, Texas and Eastern states that managed to secure federal funds for development.
“We offered the training, but things fizzled after a while,” Little said. “Demand just wasn’t there yet for the installations.”
That circumstance seems about to shift as the battle against climate change intensifies and as more car manufacturers introduce electric models.
State and local governments in the Midwest have begun mandating the installation of EV charging stations for public projects, new commercial properties, multiresidential projects and sizable rehab projects.
Public mass-transit fleets, including St. Louis MetroLink buses and Chicago Transit Authority buses, also have begun to transition to electric.
A St. Louis ordinance taking effect in January 2022 requires all new construction and substantially remodeled buildings to be EV-ready.
“To be an EVITP contractor, 50% of your workers must be EVITP-certified,” Little said.
Signaling a desire for preparedness, 36 IBEW 1 journeymen completed EVITP training at the beginning of May, the first group since 2015, Little said.
Anticipating a spike in the need for more EVITP-trained journeymen, IBEW 1 recently collaborated with the NECA chapter in St. Louis in hand-selecting 10 journeymen to be trained to teach EVITP courses. Their training started in May 2021.
Little, who chairs NEC Panel 13, anticipates plenty of changes for EVITP. So does Holmes, who sits on Panel 12.
“Now we’re looking at liquid-cooled cable,” Holmes said.
“With our first rollout in 2010, emphasis was on residential charging, but for now the focus is more on group charging for commercial facilities,” he said.
That includes public fleets and direct-delivery trucks operated by companies such as Frito-Lay and Amazon. Either way, they will be ready.