NVT Update – Let the Sun Shine! Solar Powered Cars…

I want to touch on new/updated vehicle technology that can potentially affect extrication operations.  Note that I said “potentially” because if we are aware of NVT we can safely and comfortably work around it.

Courtesy: AutoEvolution.com

For several years we have had solar panels in vehicles – most notably the Toyota Prius and the Nissan Leaf.  Now these were both small photo

voltaic panels that were only used for very low consumption operations such as maintaining the 12v charge in the Leaf, and powering cooling fans in the Prius.  Now Toyota has introduced a solar panel in the 2017 European and Japanese versions of the Prius Prime.   The new solar array produces a little over 50 volts and is interconnected with the high voltage system through cables in the driver’s side C-post.  A Toyota-produced video that describes how the solar system works is available here:

Unfortunately, the solar panel is NOT available currently in the United States as it will not meet USA vehicle rollover standards (great article to explain this can be found here: https://understandsolar.com/prius-solar-roof/).  However, as vehicle technology improves we will see solar arrays on North American vehicles eventually.

Here is a screen capture of the European version from the Moditech Crash Recovery System:

Toyota Prius Prime graphic from the Crash Recovery System

The addition of photovoltaic panels to the propulsion system adds another extrication dynamic as rescuers that rescuers will need to learn to control.  The solar panel will need to be controlled.  However, even though it is a newer system in terms of rescue operations it is actually very easy to control this power source by placing a large canvas or similar tarp over the roof prior to working at the C-post.  This will shield it from the sun and voila, it can’t produce power.  Now keep in mind, you will still need to take all the other appropriate actions to control all vehicle power and safety systems (turn off key, disconnect 12-volt battery, etc.), and these should be standard practice at ANY extrication operation.  Proper shutdown procedures and other rescuer-related information for any vehicle can be found in the Crash Recovery System (http://wp.me/P30o5V-2C), so be sure to check that out.

As time moves forward, all manufacturers are working for more energy efficient vehicles.  TESLA is working hard on introducing solar power in their vehicle design as well as many others.  If rescuers take the time to learn about this and other new vehicle technology they will be prepared to deal with it properly in the street.

Until next, keep it safe!