Ready or Not Electric Vehicles (EVs) Are Coming: Things you should know and be aware of

By: Jim Jeffrey
The EV is charging into the marketplace. A lot of media space is dedicated to EVs and their impact on today’s automobile market. A lot of misinformation surrounds EVs. This misinformation adds to the concerns and apprehensions. Some of the misinformation is based on real issues and problems, it’s just been misinterpreted. The EV is safe. This article will explore some of the urban rumors concerning EVs.

Editors Note: This article was written for detail shops but their info that’s applicable and beneficial to first responders, tow truck operators, and garages

The EV is charging into the marketplace. A lot of media space is dedicated to EVs and their impact on today’s automobile market. A lot of misinformation surrounds EVs. This misinformation adds to the concerns and apprehensions. Some of the misinformation is based on real issues and problems, it’s just been misinterpreted. The EV is safe. This article will explore some of the urban rumors concerning EVs.
As far as detailing the exterior or interior of an EV, it’s safe and no extra steps are required. However, if unsure or in doubt consult the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer’s customer service dept. Don’t take a risk!
Electric Vehicle Rumors and Concerns
1) In the case of an electric vehicle collision, the local utility company needs to arrive on the scene to assist first responders. I can’t find anything to support this rumor. However, certain precautions should be observed.

  • NTSB criticized OEM first responders’ guides for lacking enough information to protect first responders like firefighters and “second responders” like towing companies**.
  • Thermal runaway and multiple battery re-ignition after initial fire suppression are safety risks in high-voltage lithium-ion battery fires” reported by the NTSB, Jan 2021.**
  • Towing companies should be aware of the NTSB’s recommendations to the towing industry.
    SAE J2990 recommends two barrier methods for an EV during storage after a collision: (1) separate the vehicle from combustible structures by 50 feet, or (2) create a barrier of earth, steel, concrete, or solid masonry around the vehicle.**
    According to the NTSB, damaged lithium-ion batteries pose two main risks. Electric shock and thermal runaway (short-circuiting).
    2) Electric cars shouldn’t be pushed into a repair bay for service. This is not completely accurate. See below.
  • SAE J2990 recommends towing a damaged electric vehicle on a flatbed to avoid generating voltage from the turning wheels. If pushed, do not exceed 5 mph.**
    3) All key fobs should be secured and placed in a safe area to prevent accidentally starting an EV.
  • Good Best practices – should be observed for all vehicle types.
    4) Electric cars are quiet and referred to as the “silent killer”.
  • EVs emit very little noise at low speeds. This is a pedestrian and bicyclist issue. Usually, the only noise generated is from the tires. New models today require noise when traveling at low speeds. In a shop environment, special precautions should be observed (an escort walking beside the car, turning on emergency flashers, tapping the horn when moving).

There are several types of batteries for hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles. *
Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries- Used in computers and medical equipment in the past. Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries have a longer life cycle than lead-acid batteries and are safe (nontoxic)
Lead Acid Batteries- can provide high power and are inexpensive. Safe and reliable. They can be affected by cold temperatures and they have a short calendar life. “The acid, if spilled, is not a hazardous material, as it is self-neutralizing. Hazmat teams ignore it, unlike gas, diesel, and other automobile fluid”***
Lithium Batteries- This is the predominant rechargeable battery for every EV on the road. Like any automobile collision, certain precautions should be observed. The gas-powered car has a tank with a highly flammable liquid. This is a hazard but fortunately, firefighters have years of experience fighting a gasoline or diesel fire. This is a regular training exercise. The collision of an electric vehicle requires a different approach. This battery provides a long calendar life, and excellent weight and energy features. Be aware, Lithium-ion batteries can short circuit if the battery cell is punctured. These batteries have been known to combust. There are numerous stories about hoverboards, and laptops bursting into flames.
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EVs are required to withstand impacts just as traditional internal combustion engines (ICE). In the case of damage to the EV battery system, the obvious may not be so obvious. In a worst-case scenario, the battery catches fire, it’s an electro-chemical fire. These types of fires require a tremendous amount of water. The runoff water from extinguishing an EV battery fire should be captured and retained or diverted away from water intakes or bodies of water supporting marine life. In April, an EV powered by a lithium-ion battery car crashed in Houston, Texas; it took firefighters more than four hours and 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze. This opens up a whole new conversation concerning liability and potential environmental damage/mitigation.

As a detail shop, these are issues you shouldn’t run into. You don’t detail wrecked cars. However, this article provides insight and information for you to share with employees, co-workers, friends, or first and second responders in case they encounter an EV.

EVs are coming and it’s best to understand and be aware of potential problems and issues.
Be alert and stay safe.

If you’ve heard of a rumor concerning EVs let me know and we’ll look into it.

For more NTSB information go to: https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-studies/Documents/SR2001.pdf

For more information on the history of the electric car go to: https://archive.curbed.com/2017/9/22/16346892/electric-car-history-fritchle
Additional EV info;
Here’s why electric vehicles need different tires – Green Car …
https://www.greencarreports.com › News › Electric Cars

*Alternative Fuels Data Center
** RDN Repair Driven News, “NTSB report educates on electric vehicle safety risks, practices”
Jan. 18, 2021, By John Huetter
*** Ronald Freund, Plug-In America

Written By: Jim Jeffrey

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