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Why EV Cable Retractors Are Essential for Vehicle Charging Stations


In 2019, less than 3 percent of the cars in the world ran on electricity — but don’t let that low number mislead you. Sales of electric cars broke 2 million units that year, and grew by more than 40 percent annually over several previous years. In 2020, celebrated EV producer Tesla became the world’s most valued car company, with a market value of more than $200 billion. At least one analysis says that value will rise to over $1 trillion by 2025. Why EV Cable Retractors Are Essential for Vehicle Charging Stations

These numbers demonstrate a commercial electric vehicle (EV) market on the rise, and that’s leading to a rapid expansion of charging points at residences, businesses, and public charging stations. However, passenger vehicles are only part of the developing EV industry, which includes vehicles as well as EV chargers, charging station infrastructure, and accessories. Alongside the consumer market, there’s a parallel growth in demand for commercial and industrial EVs, from freight trucks to aviation ground support vehicles.

In fact, the industrial sector can teach us a lot about safe, efficient, and convenient charging points: Electric vehicles have been a staple of factories and warehouses for decades, and manufacturers have been improving EV charging stations the whole time. One feature that industrial EV fleet managers have found indispensable is the EV cable retractor. In this article, we’ll define the EV cable retractor, show how it’s been used in industrial settings, and explain why these tools are essential for every EV charging port — residential, commercial, industrial, and otherwise. If you plan to install an EV charging port of any kind, here’s what you need to know about EV charger cable retractors.

What Is An EV Cable Retractor?

An EV cable retractor is a cable management system that uses a tension spring to pull cables off the ground and out of harm’s way. The purpose of the EV cable retractor is to keep cables restrained and contained, while still allowing free, convenient access to users. Of course, EV cable retractors aren’t the only cable management system that can accomplish these goals; some EV charging stations may simply use cable lengths that can freely dangle while the charging connector is stored in a sort of holster, the same approach we see in traditional gas pumps. Users of home charging points sometimes store the charger cable in the vehicle, attaching it at both ends with every charge.

When the charging cable is permanently attached to the EV charger — as it is in most commercial and industrial charging stations — EV cable retractors allow longer cables for more convenient access, without creating the hazards associated with poor cable management. But not all cable retractors follow the same design or performance. Keep reading to learn about the leading types of EV charger cable retractors.

Types of EV Cable Retractors

Retractable reels for EV charging don’t coil and dispense charging cables like a retractable tape measure; that would place undue strain on the charging cable, and could build up too much heat during charging for the undispensed portion of the charger cable. Instead, they use retractable poles or wires to suspend charging cables between uses, allowing the full length of the cable to move freely. With this in mind, EV cable retractors tend to follow one of three general designs:

  • Pogo-style cable retractors are a mainstay of charging stations for electric industrial vehicles, such as forklifts. These units consist of a roughly 3-foot metal pole that terminates in a cable clamp. This sort of cable retractor bolts to charger stands and remains secured in an upright position with a heavy duty spring; this holds charger cables up to around 10 feet or so off the floor and out of the way. To charge a vehicle, the operator pulls the pole down to bring the connector into range.
  • Wall-mounted cable retractors are popular in residential EV charging points. These units consist of a case containing an auto-retracting reel that holds a durable wire. At the end of the wire, an EV charger cable clamp provides easy attachment to charger cables, usually around the middle of the overall length. As the name implies, wall-mounted cable retractors are attached to walls, near the (also wall-mounted) EV charger.
  • Integrated cable retractors are attached to a pedestal charging stand or built into enclosed, free-standing charging systems. They function just like their wall-mounted counterparts, using a spring-powered retractor reel to elevate and dispense charger cables as needed. These stand-mounted cable retractors are ideal for pedestal EV chargers of all sizes and are frequently found in industrial and commercial EV charging stations, as well as some home charger installations.

Solus Group provides a full-service EV charging stand, which ships with integrated cable retractors built into a charger pedestal for quick installation. But regardless of which type of EV cable retractor, these devices provide a range of advantages for every user.

Benefits of Retractable Reels for Electric Vehicle Charging

As we mentioned at the outset of this article, there are alternatives to EV cable retractors, but the most common scenario without a retractor is a cable on the ground. That’s unsafe for equipment and EV operators. In fact, retractable cable reels pay for themselves with a range of clear benefits, including:

  1. Support for longer charging cables. Different models of EVs place their charging ports in different places; one might be near the hood, while the next is located in the traditional gas filler location, above a rear wheel. In order to accommodate different types of EVs, charger stations often need longer cables, which require comprehensive cable management systems.
  2. More convenient access to the charger. Without a cable retractor, EV users have two choices: They can carefully coil cables after each charge, uncoiling them on the next, or they can leave cables on the floor or in aisles. Neither of these options is ideal. A retractor keeps the cable out of the way between uses, but also makes it easy to pull the cable into place when it’s time for a charge.
  3. Protection for cables and charging equipment. Improperly managed cables are subject to a lot of risk; they may be run over, bent, or kinked, causing serious damage. When vehicles run over a cable, they may also damage the charger itself by pulling the point of connection.
  4. Elimination of tripping hazards. Cable retractors don’t just protect equipment; they can also create a safer workspace or home garage. Falls, slips, and trips led the construction industry in fatal injuries in 2019; removing tripping hazards can help to eliminate this all-too-common tragedy.
  5. Reduced risk of electrical shock. Damaged cables often expose the conductive elements, creating a serious shock risk for users. By protecting cables from this damage, retractors also create a safer charging environment for users.

These benefits have been proven again and again in the industries with the most experience in charging electric vehicles: warehousing, manufacturing, and anywhere else electric industrial trucks are in service. Here are a few more cable handling tips from the field.

EV Charger Cable Management: Lessons from Industrial EVs

Electric industrial vehicles frequently use different technology than the new generation of EVs. Traditional lead-acid batteries aren’t the same as the advanced lithium-ion batteries found in today’s electric passenger vehicles — but the infrastructure surrounding charging stations for both technologies is similar. They both need charger stands to support chargers, and they both require cable management systems like retractors.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) addresses the need for cable management on EV chargers in two places. The first is OSHA’s standards for general industry, in the section on powered industrial trucks.

Standard 1910.178(g)(2) requires employers to protect “charging apparatus from damage by trucks,” and cables are certainly part of that “charging apparatus.” Cable retractors are key to compliance with this rule at warehouses and manufacturing facilities across the United States. Meanwhile, OSHA regulations for the construction industry use similar language. Standard 1926.441(b2)(2) states that a “charging apparatus shall be protected from damage by trucks.” Again, that’s a job for EV cable retractors.

These regulations tell us something industrial EV fleet managers already know: That protecting charging cables can be a challenge, one that’s solved by proper cable management systems like the retractors discussed above. To learn more about EV charger cable retractors, charger stands, and other critical infrastructure for EV charging stations in any application, contact Solus Group at 314-696-0200 today.