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101 Posts authored by: andrewklock Employee

Fire Engineering Magazine recently published an article with participation by members of our EV safety training staff which provides an overview of the Chevy Volt, its systems, and emergency response procedures. The piece features relevant and useful information about key characteristics to identify a Volt; the vehicle’s construction - including the electrical system, high-voltage battery and occupant protection systems; and a step-by-step guide for responders. 

It also emphasizes that first responders must ensure that they understand the technology and operation behind EVs and HEVs to ensure overall safety for all parties involved.  We highlighted the specifics of the Chevy Volt in a vehicle profile on our blog earlier this year, but this article provides additional insight regarding the new technologies.

As part of NFPA’s mission to provide the latest information regarding electric vehicles to first responders, we would like to highlight key details noted in this article regarding the appropriate response procedure for a Chevy Volt. Similar information can be found on our website’s vehicle manufacturer resource page and will be included in our soon to be released “Electric Vehicle Emergency Field Guide”:

  • Identifying the types of vehicles in a crash is essential. It is more critical than ever for responders to identify the types of vehicles involved in a crash. As green technology and alternative fueled vehicles become more popular, responders should not immediately assume that they are working with conventional vehicles at a crash scene..
  • Securing vehicle from potential movement should be priority. Responders should control potential hazards by chocking the wheels, accessing the passenger compartment to set the parking brake, placing the vehicle in park, and shutting down the high voltage system. Specifically, in the case of a Volt follow this two-step process:
    • Shut the vehicle downby pressing the power button (found just above the gear selector).   If possible then remove the proximity keys from the vehicle.Then, disable the  12v electrical system by using the special cut location provided in the rear of the vehicle. In the rear hatchback, an access panel is found on the driver's sidewall of the cargo area. This access panel displays a logo of a firefighter's helmet to indicate its purpose. Behind the access panel is a bundle of wires in a black wrap with GM's "first responder yellow cut tape" attached to it. Make two cuts, one on either side of the yellow cut tape.
  • Extrication operations: Although high voltage cabling and components are not generally found in typical cut points, it is important to inspect the area that is being cut to confirm this.  . During extrication, it is important for responders to keep in mind that the Volt is comprised of approximately 80 percent high-strength steel. In order to respond effectively, responders should be aware of their rescue tools' ability to cut through these materials. Also noted in the article are back-up methods for responders in the case their tools are not capable of cutting high-strength steels.
  • Vehicle fires and submersions. Traditional firefighting equipment is acceptable to extinguish a Volt that is on fire and water application does not create a shock hazard. In addition, responders can safely operate around a submerged Volt in the same manner as a conventional vehicle or a hybrid.

Stay Safe,


Karma Fisker
Charging up the Fisker that was loaned to us by Fisker Silicon Valley.

Earlier today, California first responders had the opportunity to learn more about essential procedures for responding to emergency situations involving electric and hybrid vehicles. NFPA, in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Fire Chiefs Association, hosted a train-the-trainer session at the San Jose Fire Department Training Center. California was the 30th state to receive this training since it was launched last summer. 

Tesla Roadster, Plug-In Prius
Following the classroom training, students step outside to review the
components of the Tesla Roadster, Plug-In Prius and other EVs.

Given that the training was held near some of the most exotic electric vehicle manufacturers in the world, course attendees were given access to a Tesla Roadster, a Karma Fisker, and more. Prior to that portion of the training, each participant was given an Emergency Field Guide to familiarize themselves with the vehicle-specific response recommendations. They now have a better understanding of the technologies and special features included in these new vehicles.

To find out when you may have the opportunity to experience a training in your area, be sure to visit our Calendar!

- Angela Burke

Ford-hybrid-logoAs hybrid and electric vehicles become more popular on the roadways, it is more important than ever for responders to understand the best identification methods.  Most responders tend to rely on external badging as the sole identification method; this however can result in some vehicles not being properly identified.  First keep in mind that there are no industry standards for external markings.  Vehicle markings can range from all four sides to a complete absence of external badging.  Responders must also consider that the potential exists for external markings to become hidden or dislodged as a result of a crash.
During an emergency response, the most appropriate action is for first responders to treat any vehicle as if it is some type of alternative fueled vehicle until you can make positive identification one way or another.  Additionally, if at first glance you do not see any badging, be sure to look for less conventional identification methods such as battery vents, dashboard logos or indicators, orange cabling, etc. to ensure that you are not dealing with a hybrid or electric vehicle.  For more detailed information on proper identification methods take the online class available soon on our website, or be sure to attend a training class in your area using the NFPA classroom program. Safe,


There has been a lot of discussion and speculation about the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles among car buyers. It can take some time for the public to embrace new technology. It is hard to change, and many choose to avoid the discomfort of something new unless there is a catalyst for change. For some that catalyst may be $4.00 per gallon gasoline.

Earlier this month, Toyota reported that sales of all Prius brand hybrids rose 52% in February. Sales were far higher than the approximately 8% increase predicted by analysts at the beginning of 2012. As gas prices continue to climb demand has risen at such a fast pace that Toyota is sending more than 25,000 cars to dealers in an effort to meet demand.  


While not all alternative-fuel vehicles may be experiencing the same spike in demand, the Prius is an example of how, with time, the general public can learn to adapt and embrace these new vehicles. Nearly one year ago, Toyota announced that it had exceeded the one million mark in sales of the Prius, coming a long way since its first days on the road more than 10 years ago.

Have you responded to a crash involving a Prius? Chances are, many of you have. What was once a novelty on the road is now commonplace, and it may not be too long before you come across a Volt, Leaf or another electric vehicle.

Gas prices show no sign of falling anytime soon, and we are working to make sure first responders are prepared for what’s coming down the road as more and more consumers across the country look into making the switch to electric and hybrid vehicles.


Hybrid Vehicles 101

Posted by andrewklock Employee Mar 22, 2012


With so many vehicle ads emphasizing acceleration time, horsepower, and top speeds, it’s no surprise that many drivers worry about the real-world practicality of alternative-fuel vehicles. But some people underestimate the capabilities of hybrid and electric vehicles to keep up with their conventionally-fueled competitors. Fortunately, is here to help. The website has posted a great article on the types of hybrid vehicles.

How much do you know about hybrid and electric vehicles? Keep yourself informed by taking our Online Electric Vehicle Safety Training for the Chevrolet Volt. Already taken the Volt course? You can read up on the latest research and emergency response guides at our Resources Page, and keep an eye open for our full online training, covering all types of hybrid and electric vehicles, which will be available in May 2012!

Emery - Volt Figure 8 (Courtesy of General Motors)

Today we are going to take a quick look at the first Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) on the market, the Chevrolet Volt.  It was first released in the fall of 2010 in select markets, and went nationwide in 2011. 

From the exterior, the vehicle can be primarily identified by the “Volt” badging on the front fenders and on the liftgate.  Additionally, the door for the charging port is located on the driver’s side front fender underneath the Volt logo.  The interior features digital display screens which also provide clues such as the battery state of charge indictor.

The Volt is constructed of nearly 80% high and ultra-high strength steel with the vehicle essentially built around the six foot, 400 pound, liquid cooled, 360 volt lithium ion battery that runs down the center of the vehicle and under the rear seats.  In addition to the high voltage battery, there is an engine generator under the hood that is designed to generate electricity to power the drive motors when the battery becomes depleted.  The average range on the fully charged battery is 25-50 miles with an additional 344 miles provided by the engine generator running off the 9.3 gallon gasoline supply.  The Volt battery can be recharged using a level I or II charging station.

Since this vehicle has both a high voltage electrical system as well as a gasoline powered generator onboard, first responders should treat this vehicle as you would a hybrid and be sure to control both energy sources.

For a more in depth look at this vehicle and its emergency response procedures be sure to take our Volt safety training course.

Stay Safe,


In the pursuit of luxury and efficiency, Mercedes has developed two new models for 2012; the E300 Blue TEC Diesel Hybrid, and the E400 Hybrid.  Unfortunately, the E300 Blue TEC diesel is for the European market only at this time.

With the introduction of the Mercedes E300 & E400 hybrids, Mercedes has presented one more twist to the game for first responders.  The high voltage battery pack is not where we have been accustomed to looking for it, such as the rear cargo area or under the rear seat.  Mercedes has put the .8Kw Li-Ion battery pack in the engine compartment, operating at 120Vdc.

As you can see from the pictures, the battery is behind the front strut tower (normally covered).  The familiar orange cables are also quite close to the right quarter panel.  This may cause some concern for those who look to put a relief cut here for a dash lift maneuver, or to gain access to the engine compartment for extinguishment operations.
In addition to the HV battery may be two 12v auxiliary batteries.   One in the trunk to support cold start demands, SRS , appliances, and another small battery to maintain consistent lighting voltage, and support infotainment appliances.


So, the obvious take-away here is to “Peek before You Pry”, or cut.  As with any new building, or vehicle innovation, we are constantly challenged to stay on top of the technology that makes our lives more difficult in the work place.

Stay Safe,
Matt Paiss, NFPA EV Safety Instructor


Hybrids vs. Plugin Hybrids

Posted by andrewklock Employee Mar 13, 2012

With the release of more and more hybrid and EV models, it may be difficult to understand some of their more subtle differences.  In the case of hybrids and plugin hybrids, while there are certainly some engineering differences, from an emergency responder perspective they are handled the same.

Hybrids are self-contained units that use both electric motor(s) and an internal combustion engine (ICE) to propel the vehicle.  The high voltage battery is recharged through power taken from the ICE and through a process called regenerative braking that captures energy from the braking process.  Both of these methods ensure that the user never has to consciously make an effort to charge the battery, it’s done automatically.

Plugin hybrids are simply an offshoot of that concept; they allow for a connection to be made to a Level I or Level II charging station for another charging source for the high voltage battery.  These vehicles also include a larger capacity battery to store that extra energy and improve the overall energy efficiency of the vehicle.  In the event that you cannot connect to a charger, the high voltage battery is recharged through the same means as a standard hybrid.  Ironically enough when hybrids first were released, there was a concern among manufacturers that people would not understood that they did not need to be plugged in.  A decade later that concept has become more acceptable to the general public and the plugin hybrid was born.

There is essentially no difference for the first responder in how we handle these vehicles in an emergency situation.  Both types contain a high voltage power source and an internal combustion engine with a fuel source and should be treated as such.  The only real difference would occur if the plugin hybrid was attached to the charging station at the time of the incident.  In this case you would want to secure the power source supplying the charging station as a first step in mitigating the scene. 

As always, be sure to use the Identify, Immobilize and Disable approach on all vehicles and assume there is a potential to be dealing with a Hybrid or Electric Vehicle when approaching a crash or fire scene.

Stay Safe,


The Instructors of the Vermont Fire Service showed tremendous dedication and motivation during a gloomy Saturday morning class. A special thanks goes out to Kevin O’Brian, of the Burlington VT FD, and Tom McGrath, of the University of Vermont Transportation Research Center (TRC). These two individuals obtained four different vehicles for the students to explore.

Mr. McGrath brought the University of Vermont TRC’s Spark shall I say a converted plug-in Prius. The Spark, which is pictured above, is a 2007 Prius that had a Lithium Ion battery added to convert it into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Other vehicles included a new Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius, provided by Alderman’s Auto. This class was especially relevant as EV-related work has been a focus of the TRC. The Vermont Clean Cities Coalition, housed at the TRC, is currently part of a ten-state EV planning grant sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The work aims to streamline procedures and outreach efforts in order to prepare the northeast for mass EV deployment.

This was the first time I had the opportunity to see an aftermarket battery installed along with an AC outlet designed to charge the battery. Upon investigation, the company Hymotion designed the L5 Plug-In conversion module for Prius (2004 – 2009). This battery system has been discontinued as A123 systems, have now put their efforts into the global auto industry.

Stay safe,

Chris Pepler, NFPA EV Safety Training Instructor Cover
As the demand for hybrid and electric vehicles continues to grow, it’s important for first responders to understand what informational resources are available to us.  The NFPA is leading the way by compiling information in one easy location at

One of our best sources of information is the vehicle’s emergency response guides as prepared by the manufacturers.  These are all available for download as PDFs on our resource page.  Additionally, we are in the process of creating Emergency Field Guides (EFGs) for each of these vehicles.  These field guides are designed to be single-page, double-sided “quick reference” guide covering critical information needed in a response.  Be sure to add your name to our mailing list to find out when they are released.  Joining our mailing list will also keep you up to date on industry information through our monthly newsletter.

If you are looking for more in depth information on electric and hybrid vehicles be sure to take a look at our research page which has numerous reports on topics ranging from our annual EV safety standards summit, to information on the use of high strength steel and the potential obstacle it poses to extrication operations.

For those of you interested in participating in training, the online program designed around the Chevrolet Volt is exactly what you are looking for.  This highly interactive training scenario will teach you everything there is to know on responding to incidents involving the Volt.  With over 20,000 people trained since October 2010, it is one of the more popular resources on our site.  We are also putting the finishing touches on the online version of our electric and hybrid vehicle safety training program.  Stay tuned for more information on its official release date.

These are just a few pieces of information available on our website.  Please feel free to explore the site and look at all of the valuable resources available as we continue to make this a one stop shop for everything first responders need to know on the subject.  If you have any questions about hybrids or EVs, don’t hesitate to reach out to us using our contact page, we would be happy to assist you.

Stay Safe,


IMG_3688Jason Emery, one of NFPA's EV Instructors, discusses with the class
why this training is so important to first responders.

Last Friday the NFPA conducted its 23rd Electric Vehicle train-the-trainer in Lexington, Kentucky. Special thanks to Bryant Stiles, Marc Rudder, and the staff of the 2012 Fire Officers School for their hospitality! With over 100 students in the class from all around the state it was a very well attended session and the students responded to the curriculum positively. This eight-hour training program covered all aspects of responding to incidents involving hybrid and electric vehicles and prepared the instructors to take the program out into the field. The students also had the opportunity to take a close look at a Toyota Prius that was brought right into the training room. As a result of the training there are over 100 instructors in KY now qualified to help attain our goal to train emergency responders across the country. As always, the opportunity to speak with firefighters from around the state and answer their questions was the most rewarding. This time around I was able to grab lunch with a great group of firefighters representing the fire investigation side of our business and talk through some of the unique issues they would face.

Stay Safe,
Jason[1]Chris Bernstein Photo

Last week, the Patriot Ledger ran an article about the new charging stations at the Hanover Mall in Hanover, Massachusetts.

The installation of the stations in Hanover are part of a project run by the National Grid, which plans to install 30 new charging stations state-wide under the Department of Energy’s “ChargePoint America” program. Under the program, National Grid foots the bill for the installation and maintenance while the charging site (in this case, the Hanover Mall) pays the electric bill—allowing EV users to charge for free. The goal of the program is two-fold: increasing EV-friendly infrastructure while also making it more affordable for EV-owners to power up, making electric vehicles more appealing to consumers.

The ChargePoint America program addresses one of the major issues consumers have with electric vehicles: when they’re not home, where do they power up? Fortunately, as they say in the smartphone business, “there’s an app for that.” The ChargePoint Network offers a useful website where EV users can find a charging station near their location or along the route of a planned trip, as well as downloadable smart phone apps so users can search on the go.

Photo: New York Times

Back in January, we reported on some of the steps the U.S. military—currently the world’s largest single consumer of oil—is taking to scale back on its gas-guzzling vehicles in order to reduce oil spending. This week, we’re happy to announce the reveal of the Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle, or CERV, at the Chicago Auto Show. This light, armored vehicle is intended for reconnaissance missions, and comes equipped with a silent engine allowing it to travel on rough terrain without being heard.

According to The Charging Point, the CERV is a joint project between the Army’s Tank Automotive Research Developing and Engineering Center and Quantum Fuel Systems Worldwide, a company that specializes in renewable energy propulsion.

In addition to cutting oil spending and lightening the Army’s carbon footprint, the use of hybrid and EV technology in the Army will reduce the risks that accompany the transport and protection of fuel supplies. Electric vehicles don’t just help the planet—they can save lives, too!


Electric vehicles were the big newsmakers in last month’s Washington Auto Show, and it’s no surprise that they’re getting their own showcase this week in Tampa. The EV International Expo, a three day conference running February 21-23, focuses on informing the public about the benefits of electric vehicles.

“We’re not pushing anyone’s brand,” said Doug Mitchell, CEO of the Expo. “We’re bringing the whole of the technology to the public.”

With its flat terrain and warm weather, Florida seems tailor-made for battery-operated vehicles. Many charging stations have already been put in place around the state, and business can get tax credits for going green. “The infrastructure is here;” said Rob Keith, a marketing strategist working to promote the Expo. “You just need to create the demand.”

The EV International Expo is only $10 to attend, and registration is still open. For all you EV-lovers in Florida, it’s not too late to check out this event!

Acc_cost_savingsFollowing President Obama’s State of the Union address, which highlighted several pledges to continue with plans for cleaner energy in the U.S., the California Air Resources Board has announced the Advanced Clean Cars program. The program is designed to “drastically reduce smog-causing pollutants”, and is expected to lead to increased sales of environmentally friendly vehicles.

In addition to increasing sales of hybrid and electric vehicles and building adequate fueling infrastructure for those vehicles, Composites World reports that the program will have other benefits inc, including cuts in vehicle operating costs, vehicle fueling costs, reduced smog-forming emissions, and a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information about the program, check out the full news release.

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