In a world of IPhones, sattelite radio, plasma tv's, and even cell phone service at the top of Mt. Everest; it is hard to imagine where our technolically crazed society will stop. New advances are made almost daily it seems.
Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing a variety of new products that we as firefighters have the possibility to encounter on a daily basis. I will present to you a topic, then proceed to discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of the item. The discussions will be based around firefighter safety, however; do not be surprised if I throw in a couple cool gadgets just for fun.
So without any more hesitation, tonight we will discuss hybrid cars.
Hybrid vehicles have been around longer then some may think. Things like diesel-electric locomotives and nuclear-electric submarines have been in production for quite some time. Only recently however; has the hybrid passenger vehicle become popular.
Considering some of you are still not entirely sure how a hybrid car runs, I will give a brief description:
Hybrids work off a combination gasoline engine and electric motor. The gasoline engine is just like the powerhouse in any regular car, just smaller and more fuel efficient. The electric motor however; connects to a set of batteries. The motor can also act as a generator and recharge the batteries when needed. Hybrids can be powered generally in two different ways:
A parallel hybrid where both the gasoline engine and the electric motor have the ability to power the drivetrain. And a more common "series" hybrid where the gasoline engine powers the electic motor, providing power to the batteries, finally powering the drivetrain.
The advantages of these cars are obvious. Lower emissions and better gas mileage are the most popular reasons for buying a hybrid.
Disadvantages come to us as firefighters due to the high-voltage (HV) wiring found in these cars. When encountering any of these hybrids during an MVA, your main concern should be, as always; safety. This means properly shutting down the cars HV powerlines before doing anything else. The easiest way to do this is by turning the key to the off position, removing it, and placing it far away from the vehicle (roughly ten feet to be safe, usually in the fire apparatus cab is fine) due to proximity key ignition or smartkeys. Smartkeys have the ability to "alert" the car when the driver gets close enough to the vehicle and will allow the driver to unlock doors, use the radio, or start the car via push buttom all with the key never leaving his/her pocket. After removing the key, simply disconnect the 12v battery. Remember to always stay away from the orange and blue wires. Then, and only then is it safe to use extrication or hand tools to remove the pt.
Secondary ways to power down the car can be important depending on the type of crash. Unfortunatly, car makers generally have their own specific ways on doing so. When the first option isn't available, always refer to the cars ERG, or emergency response guide. Due to the danger to emergency responders, each cars ERG must legally be placed in the cars glovebox.
When arriving on scene, it can be difficult to determine if the vehicle is still actually running due to the extreme quiet of the electric motors. Therefore, even if the car hasnt sustained serious damage, always shut it completly down to be safe.
Well kids... this is the first of many products I will be discussing over the next few weeks. I will try to answer any questions to the best of my ability and hopefully we can all learn something from eachother. Feel free to leave any thoughts, questions, or concerns.