Electric Vehicles: Part 3

SUBJECT: Electric Vehicles TOPIC: Part 3 – 2011 Chevrolet VOLT Battery OBJECTIVE: Given a potential crash scenario involving a 2011 Chevrolet VOLT, the emergency responder will understand recommended safety management procedures. TASK...


SUBJECT: Electric Vehicles TOPIC: Part 3 – 2011 Chevrolet VOLT Battery OBJECTIVE: Given a potential crash scenario involving a 2011 Chevrolet VOLT, the emergency responder will understand recommended safety management procedures. TASK: The rescue team shall study the...


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Park & Parking Brake

As soon as interior access is gained by any responder, place the gear selector lever into the "P" or "Park" position by moving it forward. It is in the center of the center console and is readily identifiable. Then, activate the electric parking brake by pressing the button on the right side of the center console. It is labeled with a "P" surrounded by a circle. This ensures that the VOLT will remain where it is if it is on its four wheels and has been stabilized.

Ignition

Step five of our VOLT Lock Out/Tag Out process is very important. The inside medic or rescuer must turn the ignition of the VOLT off or verify that it is already off. There is no ignition key and no ignition switch on the side of the steering column. Instead, the VOLT has a push-button ignition switch on the left side of the center console. It is labeled with the words "START" and "STOP." If the ignition is on, then one more push will turn the ignition off. When the ignition is off, the high-voltage power for the electric drive system shuts down and is isolated to just the high-voltage battery itself.

Instrument Panel

After turning the ignition to the off position, the interior rescuer should glance across the instrument panel. There should be no dial or gauge with any needle or indicator showing that the vehicle is running or on. If you followed the first five steps then at this point, the instrument panel will indicate that the VOLT is now turned off. Once the VOLT is turned off, the airbag capacitor begins draining as well.

12-volt Shutdown

If your VOLT crash incident is minor or if occupants need only routine EMS procedures to package and remove them from the vehicle, then you may decide to stop at this point in the process. If however, the decision is made that you want the 12-volt electrical system shutdown, then you must accomplish Step 7 of our protocol; 12-volt shutdown. On the VOLT, you have two choices. For power shutdown when time is not critical, you can access the battery beneath the floor of the rear cargo area. The terminals for both hot and ground cables are accessible and can be disconnected from the battery terminals without damage to the cabling.

If 12-volt power shutdown is needed immediately, a responder standing at the rear hatchback area can open an interior access panel on the left side and locate the bright-yellow responder "Cut Here" label. It is taped to the hot cable wiring bundle coming from the 12-volt battery. Cutting once above this label and then a second time below the label, a "double cut," will remove a section of the 12-volt electrical system's hot cable, shutting down 12-volt power and also the 360-volt high voltage throughout the car.

The 360-volt lithium ion battery shuts down when the ignition is turned off, when any of the eight airbags deploy, or when the 12-volt power is taken away. Inside the center console storage bin is a large orange plug. This safety device is called the "Manual Service Disconnect" and is designed to be readily removed by repair technicians. If responders want to be redundant, they can open the storage bin and unlatch then remove this manual disconnect. This reassures that all high-voltage current is isolated to just the lithium ion battery.

Remember, because the VOLT is an extended-range, plug-in electric vehicle, it has an onboard electric generator that is fueled from an eight-gallon gasoline tank. The tank is pressurized slightly. A familiar-looking fuel filler door and gasoline fill tube is on the right side, rear fender area of the VOLT.

TASK: The rescue team shall study the information provided and create a department guideline for initial safety management and power shutdown of a Chevrolet VOLT involved in a vehicle crash incident.

RON MOORE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is training chief for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com "MembersZone" and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.