Danger: High Voltage!

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the voltage produced by various sources:

Containing Hybrid Voltage

We mentioned on the last page that voltage in hybrid vehicles can vary in range, but keep in mind that hybrids produce more than enough electricity to kill. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a 7.5 watt, 120-volt lamp draws enough current to cause electrocution [source: Casini]. The two most prolific hybrid manufacturers on the market, Toyota and Honda, each have battery packs with around 100 to 200 volts. In the case of the 2010 Toyota Prius, however, the voltage sent to the electric motor can be boosted up to 600 volts through a voltage converter [source: Webster]. Since the battery packs used by most hybrids produce around 100 to 300 volts of electricity, they are deemed "high-voltage" and must be labeled as such on the parts of the vehicle through which this voltage flows.

To contain the voltage, the battery used to run the electric motor is placed in a metal box that's insulated from the rest of the car's body and labeled with "high-voltage" signs. This battery box is placed behind the rear passenger seats, where it's not likely to be damaged in a car accident [source: Honda]. According to both Honda and Toyota's emergency response guides published for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and first responders, penetration of the plastic casing around the metal box and the box itself is highly unlikely, even in a severe collision.

In addition to the battery box, high-voltage cables run from the battery to the motor and are insulated with heavy-duty orange plastic casings. Both the metal box and these high-voltage cables are insulated from the vehicle's chassis, and manufacturers insist there's no risk of electrocution by touching the chassis [source: Honda and Toyota].

Although the voltage is contained, it doesn't mean that all risks are removed. Go on to the next page to find out what happens to a hybrid's voltage when it's submerged, on fire, or in an accident.