Any automobile crash is a complicated scenario. Sorting it out involves looking at speed, direction, vehicles involved, time of day, topography, traffic density, number of victims and severity of injuries.
But now, fire departments are confronting a new wrinkle: More than a million electrified vehicles, including pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, are on U.S. roads.
Particularly in environmentally green but traffic-congested frontiers such as California, responders are increasingly coming across unique EV-crash issues. At the scene, frontline safety specialists have to go beyond their traditional protocols: Before they can safely resolve accidents, they have to find specific information about the electrified vehicle involved.
Automakers, SAE International, the National Fire Protection Association and government agencies such as the Department of Energy and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are stepping into this EV education void. They're producing field guides, training manuals and videos that highlight EV-specific concerns.
Shift spoke with supplier and automaker experts, viewed crash-scene videos and read field guides to better understand EV crashes and fires.
"We need to do a lot more education and take some of this knowledge we have and propagate it to first responders and even the general public," said Anna Stefanopoulou, Energy Institute director at the University of Michigan, speaking at Shift's "Designing for Safety at the Dawn of the EV Age" conference at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., last month.