Standards matters in road/rail transport

Safer road and rail transport with IEC Standards

By Morand Fachot

Road and rail transports are enjoying a major expansion throughout the world, they are central to the global economy. They depend on electrical and electronic systems which rely on standardization work from many IEC TCs (Technical Committees) and SCs (Subcommittees).

Driverless pod in service at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Ultra Global) Driverless pod in service at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Ultra Global)

Multitude of regulations for road vehicles around the world

Road vehicle standardization relies on a number of international, regional and national regulations and directives.

The main requirement is that cars should comply with the UNECE (UN Economic Commission for Europe) rules as defined by its WP (Working party) 29: World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations. Most countries — with the notable exception of the US and Canada, which have their own directives — recognize the UNECE Regulations and apply them in their own national requirements. They must also comply, when relevant, with national and regional rules and regulations. Many of those apply to equipment that depends on electrical and electronic systems.

In March 2011, IEC and ISO signed an agreement concerning the standardization of electrotechnology for road vehicles and cooperation between ISO/TC 22 "Road vehicles" and IEC Technical Committees

International Standards and certification central to road vehicles

All road vehicles, even those powered by internal combustion engines, rely increasingly on electrical and electronic systems. More than three dozen IEC TCs and SCs cover the standardization of equipment used in and related to road vehicles as well as of other associated issues. They include:

  • TC 20: Electric cables
  • TC 21: Secondary cells and batteries, which prepares International Standards for all secondary cells and batteries. This covers the performance, dimensions, safety installation principles and labelling of batteries used in personal and public electric vehicles.
  • TC 121: Switchgear and controlgear and their assemblies for low voltage, and its SCs

Other TCs and SCs concerned include:

  • SC 22G: Adjustable speed electric drive systems incorporating semiconductor power converters
  • SC 23E: Circuit breakers and similar equipment for household use
  • SC 23G: Appliance couplers
  • SC 23H: Plugs, Socket-outlets and Couplers for industrial and similar applications, and for Electric Vehicles
  • SC 32B: Low voltage fuses
  • SC 32C: miniature fuses,
  • TC 34: Lamps and related equipment
  • SC 37A: Low-voltage surge protecting devices (surge protection of electronic devices will be a very important consideration for plug-in EVs) and
  • SC 47A: Integrated circuits.

Naturally IEC TC 69: Electric road vehicles and electric industrial trucks, plays a crucial role in the development of future automotive products and its importance and workload are set to grow in coming years.

IECEE, the IEC System for Conformity Testing to Standards for Safety of Electrical Equipment, has a scheme covering certain International Standards developed for the EV industry. These Standards cover plugs, socket-outlets, vehicle connectors and vehicle inlets for conductive charging of EVs, conductive charging systems for EVs and secondary lithium-ion cells.

Manufacturers producing electrotechnology components and systems for the automotive industry also rely on IECQ (IEC Quality Assessment System For Electronic Components), the worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components and associated materials and assemblies, and in particular on its IECQ AQP (Automotive Qualification Programme).

IECQ AQP gives the automotive industry a standardized way of testing the components to ensure their reliability and the assurance that the electronic parts used in their products are of the required quality and reliability, and are not counterfeit. This way, automotive manufacturers know how the performance of components compare.

On the right track

Rail transport is a well-established and pivotal mode of transportation both for passengers and freight and is a key component of the global economy. It has enabled many remote areas to be developed and, far from sliding into obsolescence, it is enjoying major expansion throughout the world.

The IEC took the decision to start work on standardization for metropolitan and railway transport networks in April 1924 with the decision to create the Advisory Committee on Electric traction equipment, which subsequently became IEC TC 9: Electrical equipment and systems for railways.

Standardization work by TC 9 now extends well beyond "tramway and railway motors". It also includes "rolling stock, fixed installations, management systems (including communication, signalling and processing systems) for railway operation, their interfaces and their ecological environment".

In June 2014, the IEC and the UIC (International Union of Railways) signed a global ccoperationagreement to develop standards that will increase the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of rail systems and benefit the whole railway sector.

As of October 2014 TC 9 had issued 102 publications covering all the above-mentioned areas, and was working on dozens more.

Safety top priority in automated public transport

As automation is increasingly entering public transport networks, a top priority is to ensure provision of the highest levels of safety while not restricting the introduction of new technology. Such networks depend heavily on computer based management, control and communication systems.

The IEC TCs whose activities cover automated public transport systems and personal transport pods include, beside TC 9, TC 21: Secondary cells and batteries, TC 47: Semiconductor devices, and its SCs, which prepare International Standards for semiconductor devices used in sensors and MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) installed in personal and public transport systems.

TC 9 is responsible for International Standards relating to the systems, power components and electronic hardware and software used in fully automatic transport systems operating in the wider context of urban rail and metro transport. This includes safety aspects such as passenger alarm systems and automatic system surveillance. TC 9 works in liaison with other relevant IEC TCs, for example, coordinating with TC 69 on the development of double-layer capacitors for energy storage.

The global expansion of road and rail transport over decades would be unthinkable without the ground-breaking standardization work done by all the IEC TCs and SCs involved in a broad range of sectors.

Driverless pod in service at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Ultra Global) Driverless pod in service at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Ultra Global)
This car overhead control centre integrates complex electronics for multiple functions into a limited space (Photo: Hella KGaA) This car overhead control centre integrates complex electronics for multiple functions into a limited space (Photo: Hella KGaA)
Volkswagen Jetta hybrid engine The introduction of hybrid and other EVs has boosted the electrical/electronic content in cars (Photo: Volkswagen AG)