1. #1
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    Default Hybrid or Electric cars and water?

    Hi all,

    Had an interesting question come up the other day. I mainly train divers, but am in the fire service in Cols, OH. I am assigned to a truck, but also ride a heavy rescue.

    Has anyone done any research pertaining to electric or hybrids in the water? My guess ( and this is only a guess!) would be that the batteries would short fairly quickly, and any charge would dissipate through the water fairly quick, probably into the bottom, since that is the closest ground.
    This is similar to lightning storms and diving. Of course, being out of the water is the best course, but even the weather service doesnt have a lot of info of lightning behavior when it hits water.

    Why is this important to me? I had a student ask, and didnt have a definitive answer. 3AM, car in the water, arrive to find it in 8 ft of water, cold, with a timeline of 10 mins. Do we enter? I would, but hadnt given much thought to electrics.....

    Thanks in advance, stay safe.
    Digger Treinish,
    Columbus, OH FD

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    Oh yeah, I forgot to clarify. I have done some research, albeit not a lot. We deal mainly with no visibility water, very muddy, and vis of 2-3 inches is a gift. Of course with vis, no diver would ever grab a cable.
    My concern is diving into one of these without the visibility. My luck would put me on the hot cable first grab.

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    Something to remember about electricity. It takes the path of least resistance to complete the circuit. Earth ground is not a factor in this equation because earth ground is not part of the circuit in any way. With household and other land based power distribution, earth ground is a factor but not with a car. Lets pretend for the sake of discussion that the water was enough of a conductor, it would simply flow current from one terminal of the high voltage battery to the other terminal or to the chassis ground (which ever is closer). This is why when a basement floods, we don't get electrocuted because all the outlets are under water. Even if the water could conduct a little bit, it would just conduct from the hot to the neutral or ground prongs, not the whole basement.

    I've never tried what you are asking so I can't say for certain what will happen. But in my experience with electrical stuff under water, you are probably not in much danger unless you grab an energized high voltage wire while touching another part of the car... just like if it were on land.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Makes sense. I dont have a lot of info on lightning either, but from what I gather, it does not travel a lot in water directly before the charge is disapated (?Yeah, I need spellcheck.) My concern is a diver on the bottom might be a better conductor than the water, and maybe getting a shock. If the water conducted enough to let the system short everytime, great.
    I also am curious if the suit the diver would be wearing would make a difference too, we wear total encapsulation, with butyl rubber drysuits. That might insulate us better compared to a wetsuit, which would have water in it.

    Appreciate it, hope we aint the first to play in it.

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    From all indications promulgated via manufacturers there isnt a sfety issue with Hybrids entering the water related to extrication.

    For greater info, I suggset you visit Mid Sounth Rescue Technology's website.
    Developer and Sr. Presenter, Team Xtreme
    BIG RIG RESCUE

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    Im pretty sure Lee at MidSouth Rescue would agree, but im under the impression, that with all of the relays in place as well as all of the other safety precautions used, there shouldnt be an electrocution hazards at all. Also remember that the high voltage system is not grounded to the body or chassis of the vehicle.

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    The HV system is totally isolated. Unless you grab a damaged wire there is no place for it to get to an earth ground, and with the many safety devices built into the system it would most likely have already shut down the relays isolating the voltage to the battery itself. Built in ground faults near the battery and the inverter will detect even the slitest leak, along with a main fuse in the battery module and enursha switshes that shut the system down in a frontal crash.

    This may help give you some guidelines This is from my class hand outs.

    Hybrid vehicle submerged
    If a hybrid vehicle is partially or totally submerged in water, rescuers should follow the recommended guide lines below.

    1. Do not touch any (Orange, Blue, or yellow) high voltage wires or connectors.
    2. Perform normal extrication procedures to remove the occupants, including the use of hydraulic tools.
    3. Do not attempt to shut down the high voltage system while the vehicle is in the water. Simply turn off the ignition key.
    4. Rescuers will not be shocked by touching the metal body or frame of the vehicle. All high voltage wiring and components are totally isolated from the metal body.
    5. Do not remove the vehicle from the water until the high voltage battery is fully discharged (approx. 10 minutes). Normally a popping or crackling noise will be heard in the rear of the vehicle, this is the battery discharging and will quit when the HV battery is fully discharged.

    As mentioned before, many emergency responders wonder whether they will be electrocuted while working around a submerged electric vehicle.

    The answer is “NO”

    Two types of batteries are used in hybrid vehicles, the lead-acid battery; used in the all electric plug-in type hybrids and GM pick-ups, and the Ni-MH batteries used in the gas/electric hybrids.

    Lead-acid batteries:
    Vehicle manufacturers have tested the effects of fully submerged electric vehicles (Plug in type hybrids). In these tests the batteries completely discharged electricity in about five minutes with no lethal voltages reported. Due to the quick discharge of the lead-acid batteries hydrogen gas was generated, creating a crackling and popping sound from the battery compartment.

    Ni-MH batteries:
    I have researched all Ergs and found that Ford is the only one that mentions the fizzing or bubbling, created by the discharge of the battery and they do use Ni-MH batteries.
    “I personally suggest we use their policy as a general guide line in dealing with all electric and hybrid submersions”, being that all other procedures are generally the same in all manufacturers’ Ergs.

    Fords guide lines state;
    Do not remove the vehicle from the water until you are sure the high voltage battery is completely discharged.

    A submerged high voltage battery may produce a fizzing or bubbling action. The high voltage battery will be fully discharged when that fizzing or bubbling has completely stopped.

    If the hybrid vehicle is fully or partially submerged in water, do not touch any of the high voltage components or orange cables.

    It is safe for the rescuer to work around the hybrid vehicle in water.

    All typical rescue and extrication procedures can be performed on the vehicle.

    Safety Guidelines
    The first crucial steps in submersion scenarios are to identify the type of vehicle involved in the emergency.

    Stabilize the vehicle from further movement.
    Remove all occupants.

    Confirm total battery discharge.

    Remove the vehicle from the water.

    Disconnect both low and high voltage batteries, as per manufacturer’s safety procedures.
    Last edited by LeeJunkins; 10-27-2007 at 12:03 AM.
    http://www.midsouthrescue.org
    Is it time to change our training yet ?

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    Outstanding!
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Default New Vehicle Technology

    Not that the answers on this forum were inadequate, but I would ask Todd at Sceneoftheaccident.org He's a former industry engineer and he's quite the guru when it comes to new vehicle tech and extrication. I believe he could provide a definitive answer and back it up quite well. Again, not that I think the previous answer from LeeJunkins was inadequate I just like having multiple sources.
    Good luck.

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    Good idea checking with multiple sources for answers, but also be careful what you are told.
    I believe Mr. Hoffman was an auto body tech, not an engineer.

  11. #11
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    You are correct - I am not an engineer. In my 35 year career in the automotive industry I have worked as a collision repair technician, auto mechanic, diesel mechanic, heavy equipment mechanic and marine mechanic. I have owned numerous repair facilities and have spent the last 10 years teaching in the automotive field. I have been awarded the Instructor of the Year Award and Chairmans Award from the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair along with the 2005 Automotive Industries PRIDE Award and the 2006 Leadership Award. I also run a tech support group that works directly with the Automakers to provide mechanical and collision repair information to automotive repair facilities and insurance companies all across the US and Canada.

    I believe that my credentials allow me to answer any automotive related questions.
    Last edited by SOTA4311; 11-06-2007 at 09:48 PM.

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    There goes that defensive posturing again...
    Didn't say you did not have a lot of knowledge about paint and body. Just said you were not an engineer or experienced rescue peson.

    Breath slowly and relax, they will still pay for the classes.

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    Why do you have such a "hard on" for Todd? The guy gives you what he says he will give you. You know up front how much the class is... if you don't agree.. don't go.

    Your choice... but lighten up some and don't be so "offensive" while telling him not to be so "defensive".

    He's got a pretty good thing... I beleive you are most upset because he beat you to it... or taught you something you didn't already know (hard to believe as it is) or is it that he isn't carrying Holmatro tools...

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    I don't think that Todd represents or endorses any brand of tools.
    I am pretty plain spoken and clear on my objections. The cost of the class, for material that is available for and offered for much less, or even free. The misleading statements of credentials I have witnessed in his presentations, notice I said misleading, not untruthful. There is a difference.
    Again, as stated before, I liken it to a televangelist vs. the Sunday preacher. Same info, just more smoke and mirrors to peak the interest of the sheep. I do not like to see education turned into something that puts a bad taste in the mouths of Chiefs. The firefighters that attend the class don't care what it costs, and take away valuable knowledge. The Chief at the station gets back a notebook and a powerpoint cd, and has spent a ton of department money for it. I have spoken with many that have attended and many chiefs that have sent personnel. I am sincere and completely lacking malice in those statements. Very few actually come out of an 8 or 12 hour course with the ability to present a class. So the train the trainer angle is hogwash.
    The chiefs are then skeptical when it comes around for training next time, so valuable courses are denied, or the money has already been spent.
    There are way too many $50, $25 or even free classes giving the same info, maybe not a notebook or cd, but the same info.
    There

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    Quote Originally Posted by SOTA4311 View Post
    You are correct - I am not an engineer. In my 35 year career in the automotive industry I have worked as a collision repair technician, auto mechanic, diesel mechanic, heavy equipment mechanic and marine mechanic. I have owned numerous repair facilities and have spent the last 10 years teaching in the automotive field. I have been awarded the Instructor of the Year Award and Chairmans Award from the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair along with the 2005 Automotive Industries PRIDE Award and the 2006 Leadership Award. I also run a tech support group that works directly with the Automakers to provide mechanical and collision repair information to automotive repair facilities and insurance companies all across the US and Canada.

    I believe that my credentials allow me to answer any automotive related questions.
    So... what's your opinion on the matter?

  16. #16
    Todd Hoffman

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    There is no danger in entering the water with a Hybrid vehicle. The reality is that you will probably not know that it is a hybrid anyway. The high voltage system is designed to shut down in situations such as high water and the capacitors immediately begin to drain. All of the high voltage components are protected from accidental contact, so the same procedures that you use in any submerged vehicle rescue should be used with a hybrid vehicle.

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