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Toyota Prius ALERT

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  • Toyota Prius ALERT

    I recently recieved a copy of Toyota's Emergency Response Guide for handling emergencies with the new Toyota Prius HV (Hybrid Vehicle) a dual electic/gas car, and wanted to share this with all.

    This vehicle puts a whole new twist on hazards, and Toyota isn't afraid to tell you in this guide.

    Under the trunk compartment is the vehicle's high voltage battery. A large Nickel-Metal Hydride battery consisting of 38 battery modules with six 1.2 volt cells generating a total of 300 volts.

    Electocution is a serious possibility and the guide advises to avoid this!

    However, a more interesting hazard is that the Ni-MH battery contains electrolytes made of potassium hydroxide. Although the battery is sealed, in a crash this battery can leak and if it does, it reactes violently with zinc, aluminum, tin, and other metals and organic compounds, creating highly flammable HYDROGEN GAS. Potassium hydroxide is hazardous to all human tissues and lungs.

    Toyota recommends "handling" the vehicle with electocution proof rubber gloves, rubber boots, and a breathing apperatus. They also advise to carry a solution of saturated boric acid (800 grams of boric acid to 20 liters of water) to neutrilize the highly alkiline potassium hydroxide solution released by the damaged battery. They also recommend carrying red litmus paper to tell if the spill has been neutrilized as well as a class D fire extinguisher in case of fire as water can be more hazardous if applied.

    All the high voltage cables are marked ORANGE and should not be cut. The 12 volt auxillary battery (like all normal cars) is located inside the trunk as well on the drivers side.
    In case of a crash, Toyota recommends first removing the ignition ket, then disconnecting the auxillary battery negative cable. They then recommend removing the HV (high Voltage) battery service plug located in the trunk near the HV battery. If the rear portion of the vehicle is damaged and inaccessible, remove the HV fuse under the engine compartment hood near the front drivers side.

    NEVER/NEVER cut any orange colored cables.

    I will try and scan this manual and send it to anyone who is interested. e-mail me at [email protected] and I'll send it to you.

    Mr. Moore, if you would like a copy of the guide for any upcoming articles/research, e-mail me your mailing address and I'll send you a copy in the mail.

    Daniel Furseth
    DeForest Fire Rescue (WI)

    [This message has been edited by DFurseth (edited August 27, 2000).]

    [This message has been edited by DFurseth (edited August 27, 2000).]

  • #2
    It is nice to see Toyota publish a document that seems so honest, and aimed to truely protect the emergency worker and tow truck operator. And since this particular vehicle has been on the road in Japan for a number of years before it was introduced in North America, a number of the bugs have been worked out of it and Toyota expects sales to be quite successful here.

    But they are not the only alternative fuel vehicle on the road. As a result we need to understand that the rules are changing, and that we need to do a better job of performing the "initial scene assessment" to see what we are really dealing with (aka the "big picture"). Vehicles from 2 seat commuters to mass transit busses are being powered by compressed natural gas, propane, hydrogen, bio-derived fuels, alcohol, and electricity (batteries)- along with bi-fuel vehicles that combine any of the above onto 4 wheels.

    The Honda Insight has a neat feature in that the engine shuts off at stop signs or traffic lights. Its silent. When the driver steps on the accelerator, the engine starts back up and the car takes off without any noticable hesitation. Pretty neat - until one of us forgets to ensure the ignition switch is off after we arrive at the scene, and accidently depress the pedal as we are backboarding the driver out!

    If the CNG system on a car (up to 3600 psi) is compromised in an accident it could leak. Look for it and expect it. Take the necessary precautions if you find it.

    The potassium hydroxide in the nickel metal hydride batteries is more corrosive to human tissue than sulfuric acid is. And its a base - not an acid, so the hospital's definitive treatment will vary. Now what about the electrolyte in the Lithium Ion batteries?

    "All" of the mass produced alternative fuel vehicles (that I am aware of) isolate their "energy source" when the ignition is off, the auxilliary battery is disconnected, or it is in an appreciable accident. Its supposed to shut off automatically, but......

    Sure something could leak. It could be natural gas, it could be sulfuric acid, or some other product. Slow down and look at what you are doing before you do it; look at something before you stick your hand into it; look at something before you cut it....

    That is the lesson we are learning with air restraint systems, pretensioners, glazing, steels, and all that other "new car stuff": learn whats out there, look for it at accidents, and think before you act.

    For electric vehicles in accidents, first identify them as such. Stay out of any fluid leaks, and inform everyone else operating there (from the cops, to EMS, to the tow truck operator) what you are learning. Put the car in park, set the brake, and turn it off. Find the auxiliary battery and disconnect it. Unless you have been specifically trained, or the car comes with explicit directions (as the GM EV-1 does), leave the high voltage stuff alone. Thanks to the Society of Automotive Engineers, most high voltage wiring is orange.

    If the car is on fire, try putting it out. The need for the class D extinguisher only comes in to play if the battery pack is directly involved. You are not going to get zapped by playing a hose stream onto a burning electric vehicle - assuming it is not plugged in to its charger! If it is leaking something, or emitting a foul/obnoxious/irritating odor, then you probably have a minor release of a hazardous material. Recognize it, and handle it in a common sense manner.

    I am not down playing the concerns or safety considerations that Toyota published in their manual. It is great information. Thank you for bringing it to the forefront of this bulletin board. But by the same token, don't forget that when air bags were first introduced we were warned that the sodium azide also required full SCBA, and exposure to the by-products may require decontamination.

    I see the International Extrication Symposium in Kentucky this October is advertising that alternative fuel vehicles will be discusssed. Maybe we can all learn something new there too.

    This is a great topic. I am convinced that it will create as many new challenges for us this decade, as ARS systems did during the last one.


    • #3
      This would be a good topic for the upcoming issues of "University of Extrication" hint hint.


      • #4


        • #5
          Well, I was unable to scan the manual with my department's $3000 digital sender (otherwise know as a HP Paperweight), so I'll do it the old fashioned way.

          If your interested in a copy of the manual, please e-mail me your fax number if you haven't already. If you don't have a fax, send me an address and I'll send you a copy (at least until I'm broke from postage

          [email protected]

          Daniel Furseth
          DeForest Fire/EMS (WI)


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