Hybrid Vehicle Emergencies: Honda Insight

SUBJECT: Hybrid Vehicle Emergencies

TOPIC: 2010-model Honda Insight Gasoline-electric Hybrid

OBJECTIVE: Given a 2010-model Honda Insight vehicle at a new-car dealership for inspection, the rescue team will study and be able to identify relevant vehicle occupant safety features and locate important components of the gasoline-electric hybrid system.

TASK: The rescue team shall develop operating guidelines for safely and efficiently managing a vehicle fire, injury collision, or entrapment emergency involving a 2010 Honda Insight.

The original Honda Insight, introduced as America's first mass-produced hybrid car, hit the streets in December 1999. Since that time, many manufacturers have produced a wide variety of gasoline-electric hybrid models. This column looks at the 2010 model-year Honda Insight hybrid; a completely different vehicle from the original Insight.

The five-passenger Insight is a gasoline-electric hybrid sedan that weighs 2,723 pounds. A four-cylinder aluminum-alloy gasoline engine is supplied by a 10.6-gallon fuel tank located just in front of the rear axle. The hybrid system is the latest version of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid technology that is used in all Honda hybrids.

The electric portion of the hybrid system includes a 10-kilowatt electric motor positioned in-line between the engine and the transmission. This electric motor adds power during acceleration and in certain cruising situations, and recaptures energy from the vehicle's forward momentum during braking (regenerative braking). The 101-volt high-voltage nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery weighs 48 pounds and is mounted beneath the vehicle's rear floor, over the rear axle area.

Differing from the original Insight, the 2010 model has the capability to operate exclusively on electric power in certain low- to mid-speed cruising conditions. It also has the familiar Honda hybrid idle-stop feature that shuts down the gasoline engine when the vehicle is stationary.

Standard safety features on all Insight models include dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags; front-seat SMART side-impact airbags and roof-mounted side curtain airbags. One important note for extrication personnel is that the Insight's steering column is both a tilting and telescoping design.

There aren't any new or different vehicle rescue considerations on this new vehicle that we haven't seen on other hybrid models. The 2010 Insight's rescuer considerations include:

  • HYBRID badging only on the right side of rear trunk lid; no side badging
  • Orange high-voltage cables running beneath the floorpan from the battery near the rear axle to the electric motor in the engine compartment
  • "IMA" logo on top of engine block and orange cables under hood provide identification of gasoline-electric vehicle
  • 12-volt standard battery is easily accessible within engine compartment
  • A crash-damaged Insight may not be shut down completely, but instead be in "Sleep mode" where the gasoline engine shuts off but the vehicle remains energized as a fuel-saving technology
  • Stored gas inflators mounted along both rear C-pillars for the roof airbags
  • Front-seat airbags with shirt-tag airbag IDs
  • Advanced steels only within the front bumper structure; high-strength, low-alloy steels in structural areas

The Emergency Response Guide is available at www.honda.com.

Following the University of Extrication's seven-step lock-out, tag-out recommendations will work well for dealing with a crash-damaged 2010 Insight. Visit the website http://www.firehouse.com/firehouseemail/images/Honda_Insight_2010.pdf for a printable copy of this procedure.

TASK: The rescue team shall develop operating guidelines for safely and efficiently managing a vehicle fire, injury collision, or entrapment emergency involving a 2010 model-year Honda Insight vehicle.

RON MOORE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer 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.