Electric Vehicles (EVs)

The focus on electric vehicles (EVs) in the towing industry continues to grow as more and more electric cars appear on our roads and highways. And rightly so, as they pose a unique risk to emergency responders and the public. Potential hazards include electric shock, thermal runaway, battery ignition and reignition, and stranded energy. 

A study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 2020, on which a TRAA representative serves, concluded that vehicle manufacturer response guides for emergency personnel were inadequate and gaps are present in safety standards and research-related to high-voltage, lithium-ion batteries involved in high-speed, high-severity crashes. See the full report here: Safety Risks to Emergency Responders from Lithium-Ion Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles (NTSB/SR-20/01).

There are multiple recommended actions to protect yourself and your operators:

1. EV Training: One of the best ways to protect yourself and your employees is to ensure they are trained on electric vehicles. TRAA strongly recommends enrolling your operators in NFPA's Alternative Fuel Vehicles Training Program for Emergency Responders Online Training. It’s targeted at fire, EMS, and towing responder disciplines and covers identifying, disabling, and disposing of EVs. It’s self-paced, easily accessible, and inexpensive at only $25.95 USD. 

2. Download NFPA's Field Guides: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) maintains a collection of emergency response guides from 35+ alternative fuel vehicle manufacturers. The guides are free to download and available from several sources, including the NFPA website, smartphone applications, and other commercial platforms.

3. Review NHTSA Guidance: Review the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Interim Guidance for Electric and Hybrid-Electric Vehicles Equipped With High Voltage Batteries.

4. Download the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO's) Standard 17840: Road Vehicles — Information for First and Second Responders. The ISO 17840 is intended to help responders with standardized labels, colors, symbols and graphics to clearly identify a vehicle's fuel/energy used for propulsion and other vital information, such as guidance for rescue teams on extricating occupants following an accident.

5. Download the the Fire Protection Research Foundation's report on Best Practices for Emergency Response to Incidents Involving Electric Vehicles Battery Hazards: A Report on Full-Scale Testing Results.

For more information, visit the U.S. Fire Administration's website: Emergency Response Guides for Electric Vehicles (fema.gov).
EV Post-Crash and Fire

Best Practice Recommendations from David Bryson, National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA):
  1. Always use a flatbed (rotating axle can reenergize the battery)
  2. Consider LE and fire resources to follow tow truck to storage site post event
  3. Stranded energy inside the battery will remain a concern until authorized EV manufacturers and personnel break down the vehicle and battery pack
  4. Keep all crashed or burned EVs at least 50 feet away from other vehicles and structures

Intended for educational purposes only.