EXCLUSIVE: Battery Supplier Talks Quality, Safety in RV Market

A picture of Jack Johnson

Volta Power Systems is making strides toward safety, quality and environmental stewardship.

The battery supplier says it is the first in the RV market to hold two International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifications, in addition to meeting UL 1973 standards as a Testing Engineers International (TEI) listing.

“It really means if you are going to work with us, we have got strong quality solutions,” said Jack Johnson, Volta’s co-founder and chief technology officer.

The supplier spent nearly nine months pursuing its new TEI listing, which provides a third-party testing focused on safety. Starting this month, new RVIA standards will require third-party analysis on all lithium-ion batteries, although a testing lab was not specified.

As an automotive and RV supplier, Johnson said Volta chose to work with Utah-based TEI’s labs because the company offers unique RV testing. The UL 1973 standards primarily target home-based appliances and railroad vehicles, he said, but TEI provided “blended” coverage.

“A lot of people in the RV industry are comfortable with the home appliance [testing],” Johnson said of UL 1973 standards. “It is a way to at least show there is a third party that tested to prove what you are building is safe.”

Johnson noted achieving the safety standard, which includes nearly 150 separate tests, can cost a company “tens of thousands” of dollars. Similar to crash-testing multiple automobiles, Volta was tested on each of its energy storage packs.

Within the same week of its TEI listing, the supplier was notified of its new automotive-focused ISO 9001:2015 certification – an “unusual” title to have in the RV industry, Johnson said.

“What it really is about, is your quality systems and quality management as an organization,” he said. “…ISO 9001 is pretty complex in terms of the level of documentation structure and maturity of your business.”

Volta stated the certification ensures the quality, efficiency and traceability of the company’s manufacturing and production process. By meeting the certification’s standards, Volta said it can reduce product defect and waste rates, provide customers’ better offerings and create opportunities for “meaningful” manufacturing improvements.

ISO 9001 is a mandatory automotive company certification, Johnson said. In the RV industry, he said most businesses are not able to implement required quality systems and documentation without “a lot of difficulty,” often because of industry differences in volume, overhead and tool development.

“[ISO 9001] involves how you make sure you are meeting those customer requirements, and protecting the customer from all the things that could be happening when you build complex components,” Johnson said.

In addition, Volta is in the process of achieving its ISO 14001 certification, which spotlights environmental practices. Work began on certification nearly one year ago.

“For example, we power our facility partly by solar. We have battery packs where we save energy from our processing instead of just putting out the heat and we recycle pretty much anything we can,” Johnson said. “We have ongoing projects and are always trying to reduce our footprint, either through energy conservation or world-class activities in terms of building management.”

Johnson said to achieve the ISO 14001, a company needs to prove its environmental policies are in effect for one year. In the certification’s second year, ISO audits the business to ensure effective practices continue.

Johnson noted Volta requires its supply chain to reduce waste, with focus on recycling “everything that can be.” In addition to nearly 10 kilowatts of solar power on its facility roof, the supplier reclaims heat energy from battery testing to be used in its building. Other projects include composting the Volta team’s coffee grounds.

“ISO 14001 is really helping companies to be world-class, who are serious about environmental policies and making sure they are doing their best to reduce their footprints in environmental responsibility,” Johnson said.

With all three certifications in hand, Volta stated it will continue expanding its reach into new markets. The goal is replacing typical fuel-powered generator systems with automotive-grade auxiliary power systems, without compromising safety, performance or the environment.

“When you think about the challenges of electrification, the technology is very expensive and very complex,” Johnson noted. “It is expensive, hard to get a hold of, and who you decide to do business with to utilize this technology has a big impact on the future of your business.”

Moving forward, the company’s three certifications will have routine audits conducted by their respective labs, in addition to internal staff audits. Anytime the company makes a supplier change or modifies a battery pack, Volta addresses TEI for re-testing.

“By bringing together all of these components, we are showing we are leaders in our industry,” Johnson said. “We are showing we can produce very high-quality product that is safe. And at the same time, we are doing everything we can to minimize our footprint.

“As the RV and fleet industry continue to advance their integration of new technologies, meeting standards like ISO and UL [1973] are important benchmarks for leading suppliers,” he said.

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