May 11, 2004

Toyota says hybrids are safe for emergency workers

Torrance, California – A recent Associated Press article and other reports which indicated that emergency workers who cut through the doors of a hybrid vehicle may receive an electric shock is incorrect, says Toyota.

In the Toyota Prius, the power cables carrying electric current are automatically shut down in the case of an accident. Furthermore, power cables are not located near the doors of the vehicle – they are located well outside of any area likely to be accessed by emergency crews.

“We have worked very closely with experienced safety crews to identify how best to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” said Dave Zellers, Toyota vice president of quality and service support. “The fact is that Prius hybrids have been on U.S. roads for five years and we’re not aware of any personal injury in the U.S. related to hybrid or EV electrical systems.”

The high voltage batteries are contained in an extremely strong protective case located in a portion of the vehicle very unlikely to be penetrated in a collision. Drivetrain management computers continuously monitor all system functions performing hundreds of tests each minute. In the event an abnormal condition is detected, all high voltage circuits are disabled and high voltage is contained inside the protective case.

Further, two safety mechanisms are in place that shut off the engine and disconnect high voltage if an airbag is deployed or if there is a sudden deceleration indicative of an accident. High voltage cables and components are heavily insulated, shielded, isolated and the cables are painted bright orange for easy identification. The controller box is a sealed unit and has warning labels.

To reassure emergency response professionals when the Prius was introduced in 2000, Toyota placed advertisements in trade publications and sent letters to industry organizations announcing the availability and dissemination of Emergency Response Guides. Today, all Emergency Response Guides for Toyota’s alternative fuel vehicles, including Prius, RAV 4 EV, CNG Camry and Highlander Fuel Cell Hybrid are available at Toyota’s technical information web site and Toyota continues to advertise in appropriate professional publications.

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