As more and more electric and hybrid vehicles are sold in the United States, fire investigators may see an increase in their caseload of fires occurring in vehicles with these designs. Before fire investigators can properly determine origin and cause in these cases, they must understand how electric and hybrid vehicles are designed, including major systems and typical components. Although every vehicle is different, as is true with conventionally-fueled vehicles, there are many common elements that can ground the investigator's understanding of the basic principles of how electric and hybrid vehicles work. This program explains those basics.
Please note that before approaching any electric or hybrid vehicle, the fire investigator must ensure that the vehicle's power sources have been disconnected and discharged. For safety information as well as information on failure modes and evidence collection for electric and hybrid vehicles, please view the module Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Design Fires.