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Electric car crashes worry first responders

Fuel-saving gas-electric hybrid and all-electric cars and trucks powered by sizable battery packs and high voltage motors could present a new kind of danger at serious accident scenes, according to an industry group.

A report by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) highlighted risks to first responders and tow operators from potential electric shock from damaged systems not disengaged during or immediately after a crash.

“As electric vehicles enter the marketplace in greater numbers, it’s an appropriate time to recognize best practices that facilitate a safe response when these vehicles are in an accident,” said Todd Mackintosh, chairman of the SAE technical committee that issued the report earlier this month.

The group recommended automakers install switches that would kill battery power in the event of an accident. The location of those switches should be standardized for safety.

Another recommendation would create a guide for emergency workers, something Mackintosh called a “cheat sheet for first responders.” It would quickly identify the location of high-voltage components allowing them to be disabled.

Tow truck drivers also need better information and training on how to handle hybrids and electric vehicles without receiving an unexpected jolt, the report said.

More than 435,000 battery powered electric and hybrid electric vehicles were sold in the United States this year, an increase of 53%, compared to 2011 sales numbers, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association.
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