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Essentials of fire-fighting operations for hybrid cars and electric cars Reference material for JICA Training, Vehicle

Fires by Lecturer Junya Imoto

Hybrid cars (1) Features of hybrid cars Hybrid means combination and mixture, and a hybrid car is a car that is powered by a combination of the forces generated by 144-volt-or-higher electric power and a gasoline engine. Depending on the situation, a hybrid car puts these two power sources into action simultaneously or separately. The combination of the two types of powerelectric power and a gasoline enginemakes it possible to use the fuel source efficiently and reduce emissions of harmful gases more effectively than in the case of a gasoline or diesel car. (2) Method to distinguish a hybrid car from other cars A hybrid car can be determined through its external appearance. Check whether HYBRID is indicated on the name plate and design sticker attached to the car. In addition, when it is possible to look inside the car, check whether the instrument panel includes an energy monitor, if it does, the car is a hybrid car. If the bonnet of a hybrid car is opened, the HYBRID SYSTEM indication can be seen as well as orange high-voltage wiring, on which the words ELECTRICAL SHOCK HAZARD are written. (3) Fire-fighting operation and risk factors for hybrid cars Hybrid cars are loaded with a high-voltage system of 144 volts or higher and an HV (hybrid vehicle) battery, of which the electrolysis solution contains a strong alkaline potassium hydroxide solution, hence particular attention should be paid to the hazard of electric shocks. The high-voltage wiring can be identified by its orange color. However, it is impossible to distinguish the positive wire from the negative one merely through visual inspection. For this reason, there is the danger that you will get an electric shock if you touch the positive and negative wires simultaneously or cut the wires before the high-voltage system is blocked. In addition, regarding the method for handling the electrolysis solution, in principle, you should strive to protect yourself by wearing equipment such as rubber gloves and dust-proof glasses. Hybrid cars are of such a mechanism whereby the collision sensing device operates and the high-voltage system is blocked in the case of an accident. If by any chance the system fails to be blocked, you have to block it. First you should fixate the car. If possible, switch the shift stick to the P position or apply the park brake, otherwise, fixate the car with wheel stoppers. Then, remove the engine key. If the car is damaged and the key cannot be removed, remove the IGCT relay or IGCT fuse. The IGCT relay and IGCT fuse are in the engine bay and can be taken out by using the fuse-removing tool installed in the fuse box. Next, take the service plug out of the trunk. Normally, the service plug is installed inside the trunk, and can be taken out by hand. When taking out the service plug, however, you should take measures

such as wearing insulation gloves to prevent electric shock. Finally, if the negative terminal of the auxiliary battery inside the engine room is removed, the high-voltage system will be completely blocked and you can carry out the fire-fighting operation. One important point should be noted during this procedure: Once you have taken out the service plug and the IGCT relay or IGCT fuse, it will take approximately five minutes before the condenser discharges electricity. The procedure to block the high-voltage and normal electric sources is shown in the following diagram.

Procedure to block high-voltage and normal electric sources

Can you switch the shift lever to the P position and apply the park brake?


Take measures to prevent the car from moving by using wheel stoppers, etc.


Can you turn off the engine switch and take out the key?


Remove the IGCT relay or HV fuse from of the engine bay.

Pull out the service plug.

Remove the negative terminal of the auxiliary battery.

Attention: Once you have taken out the service plug and the IGCT relay or IGCT fuse, it will take approximately five minutes before the condenser discharges electricity.

Operation starts.

Electric cars (1) Features of electric cars An electric car consists of an electric motor (a machine to change battery power to motive power), which is a substitute for a gasoline engine, and the control system (the machine to adjust energy supplied by the battery and to control the output of the electrical motor). As electric cars use electricity accumulated in the battery instead of gasoline to move, no exhaust gases are produce when they move, but a charger is needed to charge the battery. (2) Method to distinguish an electric car from other cars Since electric cars do not have a muffler, you may determine that a car is an electric car if you do not see a muffler. In addition, the battery of an electric car is under a cover, on the bottom of the car. (3) Fire-fighting operation and risk factors for electric cars Electric cars carry no fuels such as gasoline, but are loaded with a high-voltage battery (normally 100 volts or higher) for moving. During fire-fighting operation, there is the danger of getting an electric shock if the high voltage is not blocked. Nearly all electric cars are equipped with a breaker switch for the purpose of blocking the high-voltage battery, so if this breaker is switched off, the electric power will be blocked and the fire-fighting operation can be carried out. If, by any chance, you cannot find this switch, then be careful not to touch the orange wiring (high-voltage wiring), as in the case of hybrid cars. Electric cars are loaded with a 12-volt battery, which is needed to supply electric power to the air-conditioner and audio equipment and at the time of car start-up. Therefore, to prevent a secondary hazard, you should also remove the battery terminals, as in the case of a normal car.