Hazard Control Technologies, Inc.

Firefighting on High Voltage Vehicles

Hazard Control Technologies, Inc. 150 Walter Way Fayetteville, GA 30214 Phone: 770-719-5112 Fax: 770-719-5117 Email: info@hct-world.com Website: www.hct-world.com

Original Article (German) Translated Article (English) ……………………………..... 3 ……………………...……. 10

This German article was published in BrandSchutz – March, 2011. The article discusses the technologies used in today’s hybrid vehicles and the hazards associated with them. The article concludes with advice on fighting these high voltage vehicle fires and recommends F-500.

Written by:

BrandSchutz (trade journal) Weilburg-Gaudernbach, Germany Jochen Thorns
Fire Chief Voluntary Fire Service Filderstadt

March, 2011

Original Document (German)

Translated Document (English)

ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN ‘BRANDSCHUTZ 03/2011’ FIREFIGHTING ON HIGH VOLTAGE VEHICLES Structure, function and application notes Electro mobility – the word is on everybody’s lips. According to the German Federal Government, up to one million electric cars are anticipated to be on the roads by 2020. These so called high voltage vehicles can have the use of three different modes of propulsion: hybrid, pure electric or fuel cell. The common denominator being the electrical system using voltages above 25 volts AC and 60 volts DC. This article presents the design and function of the high voltage of these vehicles with information for the fire service. It is the government’s intention to significantly increase the proportion of the use of electric driven vehicles in Germany regarding protection of the environment. In August 2009 the Federal Government approved a 'National Development Plan for Electro Mobility' in which one million electric vehicles should be Germany's roads by 2020. Today there are already significant numbers of electric vehicles on the road. The probability that the fire department is called to an incident involving one of these vehicles has therefore increased. Senior Fire Officers of the district of Esslingen had the opportunity to gain first hand information about this technology and operational strategy at the training centre of Robert Bosch Ltd. This article reflects the information gained and lessons learnt there. DEFINITION AND TYPES OF HIGH VOLTAGE VEHICLES In order to achieve an acceptable performance from these high-voltage vehicles, power driven electric motors are required. As mentioned in the heading high voltage vehicles are classified as vehicles operating above 25 volts alternating current (AC) or 60 volts direct current (DC). Therefore usually all motor vehicles operating an electric drive system and/or electrical components are commonly called high-voltage vehicles. This includes • vehicles with hybrid drive • Vehicles powered solely by electricity • vehicles with fuel cells
The usual combination is an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. This form of power sources working together (hybrid) is divided into sub-types (see table below). In the so-called Mild-Hybrid, the electric motor is used in support of the internal combustion engine - one drive alone through the electric motor is not possible or limited due to the electric motor power. Driving by electric motor is only possible with the full or strong hybrid drives. In this system, both the electrical as well as the internal combustion engine can be used to drive this type of vehicle. Vehicles with a serial hybrid drive have not, under the EC Framework Directive, the description as a hybrid vehicle, but are, in practice, assigned to this type of vehicle. This type of vehicle is moved by one or more electric motors. The addition of a combustion engine only serves the charging of the high voltage battery, which delivers energy over a generator to the drive. In all hybrid vehicles the electric motor not only provides moving the vehicle. During braking part of the kinetic energy is converted into heat which will also turn, through a generator, into electric energy therefore recharging the high voltage battery (recuperative braking).


Sub Division of Hybrid Vehicles Type Micro-Hybrid Mild-Hybrid Full-or strong Hybrid Performance 15-30 W 20-75 W Voltage 120-144 V > 250 V Application Examples Start and Stop Systems As the Micro Hybrid with additional regenerative brakes, drive support As the Mild-Hybrid with additional electrical drive

VEHICLES WITH ELECTRO MECHANICAL DRIVE Electric vehicles have only one electric motor for movement. Electrical energy is supplied exclusively by a high-voltage battery. FUEL CELL VEHICLES Vehicles with fuel cells are virtually battery operated electric vehicles. Here movement/drive is achieved by a high voltage battery which is charged by the hydrogen powered fuel cell. COMPONENTS OF THE HIGH-VOLTAGE NETWORK The high-voltage network of a high-voltage vehicle generally includes, but each differentiated by vehicle-type, the following components: • Integrated motor/engine-generator • Hybrid and Engine Control System • Regenerative braking system • High-voltage battery and battery management • DC-/DC converter • High voltage power As a rule, high-voltage vehicles on today’s market possess three-phase machines, which can be used either as a drive motor or as a generator. Three-phase machines are also referred to as integrated motor-generators. In a generator operation the three-phase machines generate a three-phase alternating current (AC) to load the high-voltage battery, similar to a conventional alternator. However, the voltage of high-voltage vehicles is significantly above those that a conventional alternator generates. . If the three-phase machine is used as a drive motor, it must be supplied with a three-phase AC voltage. For speed control the frequency of the voltage varies. In the simplest design (frequently with Mild-Hybrid), the integrated motor-generator is installed between the engine and transmission thus supporting the combustion engine when starting and accelerating. For advanced hybrid drives (for example, Strong Hybrid drives) one or more generations of engines will be integrated in the transmission. The Inventor (converter) converts the three-phase AC voltage of the generator into a DC voltage to charge the battery to high voltage. In the reverse case by using the three-phase machine as a drive motor the inverter converts DC power of the high-voltage battery into the required three-phase AC. HIGH VOLT BATTERY AND BATTERY MANAGEMENT With today's production cars metal-hydride battery (usually nickel-metal hydride batteries) are used. However, in some standard vehicles and especially in prototypes, lithium Ion batteries or batteries with up to 300 º C warm sodium nickelchloride electrolyte are fitted. The voltage applied in the battery is DC voltage. The individual cells with single outputs from one to two volts of the high-voltage battery modules are connected in series so that the for the drive required voltage can be achieved by the summing up individual battery cells. Due to the integrated battery safety devices (there are at least two integrated cut-off relays available) the manufacturer guarantees that only when the ignition is switched on voltage at the contacts of the battery is present. In addition, the circuit in the high-voltage battery can be electrically isolated by the service separating connector. DC/-DC CONVERTER AND HIGH VOLTAGE POWER All vehicles have in addition to the high-voltage battery and a ‘normal’ twelve-volt car battery, which can also be found in every conventional car. The reason is that the vehicle operating systems such as ventilation, windscreen wipers, lighting, etc. is operated by a normal twelve-volt DC. In the DC-/DC- converter the high-voltage tension of the high-

voltage battery to charge the twelve-volt battery is lowered. Beside of the pure drive components further units and systems can be powered, for example air conditioning, power steering, brake boosting and heating. In high volt vehicles which do not have an additional internal combustion engine available, it is even necessary that all systems in conventional vehicles, driven over the internal combustion engine, are fully electrically operated. The highvoltage network is completely separate from the rest of electrical wiring (twelve volts). The only interface is the DC/-DC converter. According to Bosch, the high voltage tension in production cars is usually about 500 volts, 1000 volts cannot be achieved. The highest Voltage of a standard vehicle is currently at about 680 volts. HAZARDS Besides the general risks in operations of motor vehicles (including fire hazard, flowing traffic hazard by (Unknown) location of system components like air bags and gas generators) the danger of high voltage vehicles mainly lies with the electrical current. Should the current flow through the human body, it may, depending on resistance and amperage, lead to muscle cramps, internal burns, ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest. TACTICAL APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS EXPLORATION AND HAZARD ASSESSMENT The senior incident officer must be trained in assessing the new risk therefore identifying the type, model, drive and components of these vehicles. High-voltage vehicles are often identified by labels or name plates on the bodywork (and partly in the engine compartment) like the ‘hybrid synergy drive' of the Toyota Prius. In addition, components in the engine compartment as well as the high-voltage battery are marked with more labels reading ‘risk of electrical voltage' or the word 'Danger'. A clue could also be the electrical outlet charger. The high-voltage lines are shown in signal-orange and often run on the floor and/or the skirts of the vehicle. However, they can be found under (black) plastic covers or shielding fabrics depending on the model. They are additionally isolated through the body. The position of the components and the course of the high voltage line are clearly shown in the car manufacturer’s emergency instructions. The emergency instructions can be downloaded free of charge under www.adac.de/rettungskarte. The emergency services are to be instructed of the special risks. SAFETY COMPONENTS OF VEHICLES These vehicles are manufactured as high-voltage intrinsically safe. This means that technical measures from complete shock and arc protection compared to the high voltage system must be guaranteed for the service technician and also the emergency services. The following aspects are therefore important: • A simple error must not lead to endangering personnel • The twelve-volt electrical system is disconnected from the high-voltage electrical system and the high-voltage electrical system is isolated from the body (the DC-/DC-converter is the only link). • Independent shutdown of components when problems occur. • Identification of all components. • When working on the vehicle, voltage is identified by a ‘competent person for work on HV-intrinsically safe vehicles' (electricians). As already mentioned, the high-voltage battery has at least two built-in isolator relays as a safety device so that voltage at the battery terminals is only present when the ignition is turned on. After airbag release from an accident these relays must shutdown the voltage directly to the battery via a 'crash sensor’. This way a short-circuit is also excluded. The emergency services should additionally turn off the ignition and remove the key, if this, taking into account the functions of the Twelve-volt electrical system, is possible. In a few cases a turned on ignition can have, even after an accident, for example the use of electric refrigerant compressors in the vehicle. A crash test of the DEKRA Accident Research on a Toyota Prius with a frontal impact at a 30 degree angle confirmed the operation of the Safety Features: The high-voltage power was immediately switched off after impact. After 1.9 seconds the voltage was below 60 volts DC. The rear built-in high-voltage battery was not damaged. However, the HEV fuse (high voltage fuse in the engine battery box) in the engine compartment was no longer accessible. An electrical isolation of the high-voltage battery can be made with the service isolator plug/cord (or switch, usually identical with the interlock Plug). The problem is often the location of the service isolator switch, which is often behind flaps in the boot or behind the rear seats which requires time consuming dismantling to reach the plug. All vehicles have high-voltage. According to Bosch all high voltage vehicles have a safety circuit, the so-called interlock circuit. An interlock connector (also known as Service Disconnector) is located on the high-voltage battery. After removing the interlock plug the

battery runs down the tension. All switches or connectors may, in principle, only be operated by a qualified electrician equipped with insulating gloves. The high-voltage cables have a built-in isolation shield of the mass. According to Bosch this means that even in the situation of rescuing a person trapped in a car that has not been identified as a high-voltage vehicle and contact of the hydraulic cutting equipment with the high voltage cable is made, power would be automatically switched off. SAFETY RULES The following five safety rules apply for all work on high-voltage vehicles, so theoretically even for the Fire Service, but these rules may not or only partly be feasible However, the first two tips/rules can be used by the Fire Service. The last two points are technically not scheduled by the manufacturers and can therefore not regularly be carried out in situ by the Fire Department: • Produce voltage free tension: all live wires must be switched off. The ignition is off. The twelve-volt battery, as in any other incident, is to be disconnected, so that the control relay of the high-voltage system no longer operates. If an electrician is on site, the Interlock - and service-disconnect plug on the high-voltage battery is to be pulled. • Secure against restart: ignition key, interlock and service disconnect plug must be kept in a safe place (eg pocket). • determine voltage free tension: Voltage free tension is to be determined by an approved voltage tester. On some vehicles corresponding voltage detection is integrated into the vehicle. • Earth and short-circuit • Live adjacent parts are to be covered or cordoned off. Basically, the vehicles must be secured against rolling away. Should battery-/electrolyte fluid run out, this is to be absorbed with chemical binders. Wear safety goggles and chemical resistant gloves. FIRE DANGER Mechanical, thermal stress or overload within the high-voltage battery and especially within the lithium-ion battery, can lead to a short circuit with subsequent fire. The same applies for single-pole battery separation which can cause an arc. Water has proven to be a good extinguishing agent (without additives!). However, Lithium-Ion-Batteries require especially large amounts of water, since the metal (lithium compound) reacts violently with water and may release hydrogen. Hydrogen/air mixtures are, in a large mixing ratio (4 to 75 vol -%), ignitable and partially highly reactive. Even vehicles with fuel cells can release hydrogen and be the cause of a fire. Measurements must be in place to eliminate an explosion (mobile phones, wireless devices, radio message receivers/walkie talkies etc.), and to keep a safe distance of at least 25 meters. As with any other incident involving dangerous substances and goods, the wind direction is to be considered. Explosion limit tools (LEL meters) should be standard equipment or an infrared camera could possibly ‘recognize’ the fire. With a positive pressure ventilator the gas / air mixture can be diluted. Alternative extinguishing means - especially in metal fires - are dry sand and metal powder. Both have no cooling/extinguishing effect, in order to prevent the reaction between lithium and organic constituents (eg, electrolytes) inside the battery. Tests were carried out by a manufacturer of high voltage batteries using products such as 'Cold Metal' or F-500. F-500, at 3% mixture in water and applied under pressure, has shown good extinguishing results. When extinguishing, a minimum distance must be observed as to VDE -132 (for Low voltage <1000 Volts AC/1500 volts DC) – firefighter must be at least one meter away when using a dispersed, spray jet and five meters when using a full stream. Resources/Literature: (1) Joß,B.: Operational instructions for electric vehicles, Fire School of the County/State of Baden-Württemberg, January 2011 (2) Facilities Guide of the Academy of the German Motor Vehicle Trade HV vehicles (3) Lange, C.: Alternative vehicle propulsion systems, BRANDSchutz/German Fire Service Newspaper 12/2004,S 839 ff. (4) Jepsen, J. Krupski, M.: The Danger of Hydrogen, BRANDSchutz/German Fire Service Newspaper 3/2008, S 161 ff. (5) Rücker, P., Egelhaaf, M.: Crash Test with Hybrid Vehicles, BRANDSchutz/German Fire Service Newspaper 4/2010, S262 f. INFO@ Operational instruction from the Fire School of the County/State of Baden-Württemberg can be downloaded from the internet at no cost: www.lfs-bw.de (Section: trade topics/operations tactic and management/instructions to the operations manager) AUTHOR JOCHEN THORNS Fire Chief Voluntary Fire Service Filderstadt