Hybrid vehicles whose sales are soaring in the U.S. are creating a new problem for rescue workers. The cars which use a combination of a gas or diesel engine with an electric motor is very fuel efficient, but also potentially deadly. The electric motor carries as much as 500 volts which is more than 40 times the strength of a standard battery.
What is causing rescue workers concern is that in an accident the car may be electrified. This then makes the use of standard hydraulic tools to rescue people trapped in the cars useless. As emergency medical technician David Dalrymple said “If you can’t shut it down, you don’t know where the high voltage is”.
Toyota service training instructor, Chris Peterson said that the Prius‘ electric system should shut down if anything goes wrong. though he stopped short of saying that there will be no electricity in the cables. Many workers are being instructed to peel the roof off and to wear rubber boots and gloves as a precaution. The problem with this is that in an accident time is critical and the extra time that it takes to prepare for a hybrid vehicle could be fatal to the driver.
Hybrid owners generally love their vehicles, especially as gas prices are rising, but is it so cool to be green as the media would have us believe if the risk is that in an accident that you may not be able to be rescued?