This article is the second in a series on battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). Find the first article in the series here.
Safety precautions take on a whole new meaning in collision repair as they relate to hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) or battery electric vehicles (BEV). In last month’s article, I outlined a host of safety considerations, ranging from the need for specialized personal protection equipment (PPE) to how and when to unplug from active charging stations.
No one article can cover all of the HEV/BEV safety considerations inherent in today’s collision repair, so in this article, we’ll dive into two of the most common EV safety topics discussed within the industry: battery precautions and welding safety.
When a HEV or BEV is involved in a collision, there is a chance that the battery and its contents have been compromised. This can pose a major threat for collision repairers. As a precaution, all high-voltage batteries should be treated as though they’re unstable.
As a result of a collision, vehicle components may have been pushed into the battery or high-voltage wiring harness. Technicians should avoid touching any vehicle components that come in contact with the high-voltage battery or wiring harness. The major dangers of damaged batteries and wiring are electrocution and combustion.
If the battery has been damaged or punctured, the vehicle should be isolated in a place that is at least 50 feet away from other flammable or combustible materials. This is due to some batteries being extremely difficult to extinguish once they’re on fire.
The technician should also place any object that could start the engine or hybrid system away from the vehicle. This means that key fobs and high-voltage battery disconnects should be locked in a container and moved out of range from the vehicle. Always remember that once a high-voltage battery is disabled and discharged, the vehicle should never be rolled on its wheels, as this can generate voltage to the battery system.
To ensure technician safety, proper high-voltage PPE should be used, such as gloves (rubber and leather), boots, face shields and safety glasses. Technicians should always be fully trained and read OEM high-voltage disable procedures and precautions before working on hybrid and electric vehicles.
When welding on a HEV or BEV, follow the same precautions with the 12-volt system as when welding on a conventional vehicle. In addition, there are precautions to take with the high-voltage battery. As a best practice, disconnect both the 12-volt battery and the high-voltage battery service disconnect. (Note: always disable the high-voltage battery following the automaker’s repair information and follow all safety precautions.)
Keep in mind that there is typically more than one method available for disabling the high-voltage system. The preferred disabling method for repair technicians would be to remove the hybrid battery service disconnect. Also, one way of ensuring safety is to keep any removed fuses, relays or service plugs in your pocket to prevent others from reinstalling them without your knowledge.
A tool that may be used to find the automaker disable procedures for hybrid vehicles is the I-CAR-developed OEM Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Disable Search. Another resource is I-CAR’s Repairability Technical Support (RTS) portal.