One of the largest concerns today dealing with vehicle related incidents revolves around the electrification of vehicles today. We deal with technology concerns in every single vehicle today that we encounter. Passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles. SRS safety systems are more and more comprehensive, materials and vehicle construction techniques then coupled with this issue is what is injuring the vehicle’s occupants. So, take all those and add them onto the additional issues of alternative fueled vehicles. Take a seat, sit back, and lend me your ear!
For the most part EV or electric vehicles and Hybrid vehicles are not hugely different from conventional drivetrain vehicles to manage and mitigate extrication wise. If you can remember simple common-sense guidelines you will be golden. Power isolation is critical and that is really across the board today. Chock the vehicle so it cannot move then make sure to shut off and remove the vehicle key from the vehicle and place it in your apparatus. Why? We cannot rely upon our hearing to ensure that the vehicle is off any longer due to Stop & Go technology. We need to physically shut the vehicle off. The key removal is like a lock out tag out in Confined Space. Most ignition keys today are wireless, so they need to be out of the range of the vehicle, at least 15 feet so a good rule of thumb is your apparatus. Now here is a tip, if there is a family in the vehicle check to ensure that you have ALL the vehicle keys. Remember just because you took the driver’s key does not mean if there is another key present it will not switch to that key, of course it will! These two actions do two especially important things. First it depowers ALL the vehicle SRS safety systems. They are electronically dead. Second, if the vehicle is an EV or Hybrid it starts the depower of the HV High Voltage circuit. There is a drain time associated with this, depending upon the vehicle, no more than a few minutes. That is half of power isolation. The second half is to take the 12V battery out of the loop. This ensures the above two actions. Today’s Best Practice is to double cut BOTH battery cables. Now with today’s vehicles with the amount of power technology many times in our inner survey we need to identify vehicle interior items that are powered that might need to be operated BEFORE 12v battery power is removed. The other issue is finding the 12v battery. Between crash damage and the simple fact that over 50% of vehicles the battery is no longer in the front in the engine bay. If not there more than likely it will be in the rear of the vehicle. High end vehicles can have multiple batteries as well. So that is power isolation and honestly you should be doing this on every injury producing MVC today to the vehicles. The other common-sense guideline is remembering that orange cable device connections are industry standard of High Voltage power (40v or more) so Do Not Cut it! Or mess with it in any way! Seriously there really is no reason to do so and in the 20 years of Hybrids being on the streets and now EVs all the High Voltage cabling is away from where tool evolutions would normally be done. However, there are a handful of exceptions for extrication dealing with EVs and Hybrids but more on those in a-bit.
One of the best ways to assist yourself on the scene of a vehicle related incident is to have your smartphone and/or tablet equipped with the right apps to give you data on scene. Truly? Must cost thousands and because you are an American you just whip your AmEX and charge it! No worries, some of these apps are free and if you buy one less six pack of your favorite version of adult beverages each month for six months you can buy the top drawer vehicle hazard and mitigation service app for a year. We are all professionals right and we all want to strive for a better patient outcome for every patient we encounter. This sort of information is now a critical on scene tool to help in making mitigation and management choices. Where is the 12v battery and is there more than one? Can my power hydraulic rescue tools cut, push, sever vehicle components? Is this vehicle an EV or a Hybrid or conventional? All these types of questions and more involve time, effort, and energy. And remember Trauma is the disease of Time! All these questions gobble up precious time and we need to put time back onto our side. So, let us talk about these apps. This whole field has rapidly expanded in the past ten years. The longest one around and the Gold Standard for many to hold to is Moditech CRS or Crash Recovery software. This started out as software on a laptop based in 2004 but today is a smartphone and tablet-based app. The correct vehicle can be found by its number/license plate, VIN number, scanned QR code and manual search. The app then shows a glass cutaway of the vehicle with color coded hazards. If the vehicle is an alternative fuel vehicle a splash screen alert advises you that the vehicle is such and needs to be depowered. The app then walks you through the primary, secondary, and tertiary if so methods of shutting down the vehicle. The app advises high strength reinforcements what force is needed to sever it. Vehicle fire tactics are given as well. And the app database is wireless and updated on its own several times a month. The app has a database available for all regions of the world. This app is not free however does not cost a lot either. Rescue Code is a similar app with glass cutaway vehicles and color-coded hazards much like Moditech but simple and no in-depth background information like Moditech. North American vehicles are not featured on this app but can be figured out by comparison. This app is manual search only. Along with Rescue Code Rescue Sheets is also based along the same lines. Rescue Sheets are paired off the ISO refs for alternative fueled labeling and have more information than Rescue code. Both Rescue Code and Rescue Sheets are free. However, Rescue Sheets do not currently work in North America and it is unknown when or if it will be. NFPA makes an app that is just for EV and Hybrid vehicles – they use Moditech CRS screen shots and have good background information. Their app is free. Their app is focused on North American vehicles, but it is free. Lastly there are two vehicle manufacturers who place vehicle Rescue sheet information right onto the vehicle and it is available all the time. The first is Mercedes Benz. They began it in November of 2013 and each vehicle has a QR code sticker placed on the inside of the fuel fill door and the other on the inside of the driver door opening on the B post. You scan them with your phone or tablet and like magic that vehicle’s rescue sheet is displayed. Well what about prior to that date? Well as older vehicles come into the dealer for service, the dealer retrofits the older vehicle with its correct QR sticker. Pretty cool. Someone looks out for us; they just need to tell more of us. The second manufacturer is GM and they only do this on their EV and Hybrid vehicles. Same location and device as Mercedes Benz. So Rescuers check these Apps out, load them up on your device or a device to be used on scene and you will be surprised how much they empower you and put you at ease and put you on top of your Rescue game! Another thing to remember these apps can be a great learning tool for training as well! Best thing about all these apps is they are available on all platforms – iOS, Android, Windows.
Back to our physical operations. Extrication wise again EVs and Hybrids we really have but a few differences than conventional drivetrain vehicles. Most of our tool evolutions done to the vehicle structure are away from the High Voltage battery, cables, and electric motors. Therefore, I feel that these vehicles, if you perform power isolation, are the same hazard level as a conventional drivetrain vehicle. This is especially important! So, all the Best Practices that you do for technology concerns for conventional drivetrain vehicles need to be done here as well. But there are some considerations to be aware of. Watch for oddly weighted vehicles in precarious placements for stabilizing due to the placement of the High Voltage battery, watch for lifting operations when lifting the bottom of the vehicle due to the HV cables and /or floor being the HV battery, trunk tunneling could be no go due to HV battery placement (same goes for floor for same reason) and always to remember to pull interior trim to check for SRS cylinders. And remember even with power isolation, if you cut through an Uninflated SRS curtain cylinder it will go off. Also do not forget, SRS side curtain cylinders can be found on either end of the curtain bag, in the middle above the B post and even inside the curtain bag itself around the B post area as well.
So here are three specific technology concerns for extrication that are directly related to an EV or Hybrid vehicle. The latest version of the Toyota Prius Solar Roof is that the roof needs to be covered with a heavy-duty tarp that is light proof to halt its ability to generate 60v power to the HV battery. Also, the actual cable from the solar roof to the HV Battery is in the driver side C post/pillar which should not be cut through while energized. Fire concerns are the same as any alternative fuel vehicle however the solar roof does add additional concerns as like its fixed family version. Europe, the Far East, and Japan will see these latest versions however North America does not as the glass roof will break upon roll over.
Next was the concern of the Ultra/Super Capacitors in Stop & Go systems. I believe the concerns with these were drain time and what action was the tipping point of that drain time start. Another concern was the location. Certain rescue tool operations might damage the unit and it is a significant respiratory concern for patients and rescuers. Currently only Mazda fields vehicles with these devices in North America however in Europe and Far East many other vehicles do.
Last vehicle specifically is the Tesla models. All their vehicles use a floor mounted HV battery pack. You need to use caution when lifting the vehicle with any tool but be sure to crib as you go. The biggest concerns are dash displacement. This is a vehicle that a conventional dash roll will not work well on without a crumple zone relief cut. But a dash lift really needs to be used with due caution. You DO NOT WANT to crush the floor and in doing so would crush power cells in the HV battery. Doing that would start a thermal runaway in the HV battery i.e. FIRE!
We will explore the fire issues in part 2 of this feature.
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