Fischer Highlights Serious Risks EVs Pose to First Responders

At a nominations hearing today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, questioned National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy about the dangers of electric vehicles (EVs) and an NTSB study on the safety risks high voltage EV batteries pose to first responders.

During the hearing, Senator Fischer discussed the NTSB’s recommendation that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should convene a coalition of stakeholders to find ways to mitigate risks to first and second responders from stranded energy in EV batteries. Chair Homendy expressed frustration with NHTSA, saying it was “unacceptable” that the agency had yet to take action on the recommendation.

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On the Safety Risks of President Biden’s EV Mandate:

Senator Fischer: Chair Homendy, during last month's hearing, we discussed my concerns over the safety implications of electric vehicles. Those concerns ranged from our current roadway designs not accounting for the increased weight, to first responders trying to respond to EV collisions. I worry that in its mission to push more EVs on consumers, this administration has been short-sighted on the safety challenges of this new technology.

On NHTSA’s Failure to Act on Recommendations to Protect First Responders:

Senator Fischer:
As we know, the high voltage lithium-ion batteries in EVs pose risks to those first responders. And I know that NTSB conducted a study on this topic and made recommendations to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) on that. Are there any recommendations that your agency made to NHTSA that have yet to be addressed? And if so, what are they?

Chair Homendy: Yes Senator. As part of a study we did, as you mentioned on lithium-ion batteries and risks to first responders and secondary responders, meaning tow operators, we issued a recommendation that states that the NHTSA should convene a coalition of stakeholders to research ways to mitigate and deenergize the stranded energy in high voltage lithium-ion batteries and reduce the hazards associated with thermal runaway resulting from high-speed, high severity crashes. They have not done anything on this. It is currently open, unacceptable.

On the Risks EV Batteries Pose to First Responders:

Senator Fischer:
Are there any recommendations to better educate the first responders on the risks that these EV vehicles pose to them?

Chair Homendy: Yes, we issued 22 recommendations to automobile manufacturers. 16 of them have included all the information already for emergency responders in their manuals and documentation to provide. We're still awaiting work on the rest of those providers. Six others, they are doing work to get there. Also, we asked the National Fire Protection Association and other fire first responders to disseminate this information through their membership, and many of them have done so. A few, we are awaiting a response, and we're following up on that.

Senator Fischer: I would be happy to work with you on this, and so, hopefully we can be in contact. Any recommendations you have for me to be able to push this forward so that we can have answers and better protection for people because of this.

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