A traffic accident is the most common situation an EMT will encounter with a hybrid, so let's take a look at some of the steps to ensure that electricity is shut off to the vehicle.
According to Honda and Toyota's emergency response guides, electrocution is unlikely for two reasons: Contact with the battery and other electrical components can only occur if the box is damaged, exposing the contents, or if it's incorrectly accessed. In addition, high voltage cables are clearly marked so people can avoid them easily.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that voltage is not flowing through the cables is to simply turn the ignition off [source: Honda]. Each hybrid manufacturer has a different system for shutting off the vehicle. It's important to note that even when the engine is not running, the vehicle's electrical system may still be switched on.
When the ignition switch is turned off, the electrical current is shut off and cannot flow into the high-voltage cables, although the electricity may still be running through some cables on certain hybrids for several minutes after the ignition is shut off [source: Toyota].
When dealing with a submerged hybrid or a hybrid that's on fire, response to the situation depends on the type of vehicle involved. For instance, if a Honda hybrid is submerged, Honda recommends pulling the "vehicle from water, then follow recommended procedures for preventing high-voltage current flow" [source: Honda]. In other words, get the car out of the water and turn the ignition off. On the other hand, Toyota recommends disabling the high-voltage battery pack, Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) airbags and fuel pump first, then removing the vehicle from the water [source: Toyota].
To find out more information about EMFs and how hybrid voltage works, go on to the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Casini, Virgil. "Worker Deaths by Electrocution." National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 1998. (April 17, 2009)http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/98-131/overview.html
- Honda. "Honda 2005 Emergency Response Guide." 2004. (April 8, 2009) https://techinfo.honda.com/rjanisis/pubs/CI/AXX28935.pdf
- International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. (April 10, 2009). http://www.icnirp.de/index.html
- Motavalli, Jim. "Fear, but Few Facts, on Hybrid Risk." The New York Times. April 27, 2008. (April 8, 2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/automobiles/27EMF.html)
- Pines, Sara. Email Correspondence. Honda Public Relations. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (April 9, 2009)
- Toyota. "Toyota Prius 2nd Generation Emergency Response Guide." Jan. 1, 2004. (April 8, 2009). http://www.safetycenter.navy.mil/osh/firedata/Toyota_ER_Guides/Prius_2G_ ERG.pdf
- Webster, Larry. "2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid Electric Car Technology Exposed." March 2, 2009. (April 18, 2009)http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/automotive_news/4306961.html