For first responders approaching a crashed Nissan Leaf, it can be easy to recognize that the car is a plug-in electric vehicle and that a specific set of safety practices must be followed. But what about the upcoming Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid? Unless you really know your stuff, it sure looks like a regular Accord.

This possible confusion is why electric vehicles and hybrids need to have prominent labels inside or out to warn firefighters, paramedics and other first responders of the hazards they're facing from the high-voltage battery systems being used to power these cars. At least, that's the policy being promoted by the SAE International in its new report, J2990-Hybrid and EV First and Second Responder Recommended Practice.

The SAE's expert panel advises that EVs and hybrids should have inch-high letters or badges on both sides and the rear of the vehicle and that these should be visible to first responders from at least 50 feet away. An alternative could be distinctive lettering on the dashboard that rescuers can see through windshields.

The report covers a wide range of safety recommendations for these advanced vehicles including quick reference guides for first responders all the way to guidance for tow-truck operators on safely handling EVs and hybrids. This has to be done to save lives, says John Frala, an SAE committee member and an electric-vehicle repair instructor at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, CA. Adopting these recommended policies will ensure rescuers "will not get electrocuted from high voltage," Frala said in an interview with USA Today.

Hybrids have been on the roads more than a decade, and the number of plug-in electric vehicles is growing all the time. Firefighters are worried that the number of electrified vehicles on US roads is getting so large that first responders can't instantly identify them as they cut through cables to extract endangered passengers, despite participating in training programs.

Also, despite the similarities between the Honda Civic Natural Gas and regular Civics, The new labeling standards being recommended by the panel don't apply to natural gas vehicles or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Another SAE committee will be examining labeling and safety issues for these alternative powertrains, says Todd Mackintosh, the committee's chairman and an engineer for General Motors.


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  • 17 Comments
      Andy
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think these electric cars are going to be found to be more trouble than they are worth!
      JESSE R.NEWELL
      • 2 Years Ago
      electric shock no joke death can accur do what you have to to save lives
        skierpage
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JESSE R.NEWELL
        Your touching concern for safety ignores the fact that that "U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 306,800 vehicle fires per year in 2002-2005."
        HAT1701D
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JESSE R.NEWELL
        A few dead rescue personel does nothing to save the trapped people in the car and only adds to the emergency situation.
          Chris M
          • 2 Years Ago
          @HAT1701D
          The biggest risk is downed power lines, not EVs. Overhead power lines are often much higher voltage, and don't have the high visibility bright orange insulation found on hybrid and EV high voltage electrical lines. Moreover, the high voltage lines in vehicles are usually routed through the safest part of the car, underneath and near the center, where they are unlikely to be exposed even in an accident, and where they are unlikely to be cut in a rescue attempt. A downed power line, on the other hand, is almost certain to lie right across the vehicle and electrify everything. Of course, the fact that EVs don't have any highly flammable and explosive gasoline on board is another big safety plus.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Seems to me that the first time you have to replace that $$$$ battery, you've lost everything you have gained in gas savings.
        Chris M
        • 2 Years Ago
        Considering that the battery should last a decade or more, and the old battery should still have value from secondary use or recycling, and other maintenance costs will be less (no oil changes, no tune-ups, no sparkplugs, no fuel filters, less brake pad wear), and the price of new batteries is likely to drop, and the price of fossil fuels will only increase. It is very unlikely that the battery replacement cost will be anywhere near as much as the savings. Besides, what about the cost of major engine or transmission rebuilds? That's something else an EV is unlikely to ever need.
        Ryan
        • 2 Years Ago
        It isn't just about the $$$$, I hate the power and attitudes of people inside the oil empire. Switching to electric means that I make my own fuel with my solar panels. No drilling, spills, pollution, price spikes,... and hopefully a lot of other people and families making money off oil will have to find other things to do.
      floppypawltd
      • 2 Years Ago
      A long overdue move considering the fact Lipo batteries can be put in any area of a vehicle. Unlike NIMh or Lead acids they can be made in just about any shape you can imagine.
      Dude
      • 2 Years Ago
      The law of unintended consequence. I still don't understand the benefit of a coal-fired electric plant producing power for a battery-driven car.
        skierpage
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dude
        1. The electric car is more efficient than a gasoline car so it goes further for the same amount of fossil fuel. And electric generation can be polluting (though not if you have solar panels on your roof) but so is gasoline production. 2. The percentage of electricity generated from coal is dropping, in many areas it's already over 50% from natural gas and in the Pacific Northwest it's renewable hydro. 3. That coal and gas comes from the USA instead of funding countries that hate the USA. It's not "the law of unintended consequences", it's what happens when you use a more efficient motor to propel a car, one that uses electricity that can be generated in multiple ways
        dreadcthulhu01
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dude
        Running an electric car off of even coal-fired electricity has several advantages over burning gasoline to run a vehicle. A Tesla Model S running on coal will be responsible for a lot less CO2 than a BMW 5-series running on gas. And you get a lot less smog-causing pollutants, since it is far more cost effective to put very good pollution controls on a few hundred stationary power plants than it is to put them on tens of millions of cars. And you can put the power plants where there aren't many people, unlike cars, which are going to cluster wherever people do. The US also has much larger reserves of coal than it does of oil, so it doesn't need to import any coal. Less gas cars & more electric ones means less money being sent overseas & more being sent to US coal miners & power plant workers. And running a car off of coal is a lot cheaper than running it off of gas, so once the batteries get cheap enough, it will help people's pocket books as well. And of course, US power plants are getting cleaner. Less than 40% of the US's electricity last year was generated by coal; natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric plants produced the bulk of the rest. Running an electric car off of those sources is far cleaner than running a car off of gasoline or diesel fuel.
        Ryan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dude
        I generate my own power with my solar panels on my roof, thank you very much. It isn't too hard, just too many pessimists in our society preventing anything from happening in a large scale, and the people on forums repeating the same crap over and over. But, boy, Obama is going to take the guns away, we can find thousands to buy guns and ammo...
          sja8800
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ryan
          not every State makes solar power reasonable ....same with wind power
          HAT1701D
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ryan
          I'm glad you can put solar panels on your roof. Many towns and districts have regulations against it. That's just the way it is.
        eulerckt
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dude
        Until we get cleaner power plants...electrics and plug-in hybrids are just mobil smoke stacks.
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