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South Africa's foremost electric mobility platform

  • Writer's pictureIan McLaren

Audi South Africa launches an EV-focused First Responder training programme

Including precautions around attending to an accident involving a battery-electric vehicle.

With a clear mandate of introducing a comprehensive range of all-electric vehicles into South Africa in the coming decade, Audi is the first local importer to consider the potential implications of this inevitable industry transition towards electric mobility might have on the likes of First Responders and Emergency Services. Collaborating with the Department of Cooperative Governance and the National Disaster Management Centre in SA, Audi South Africa recently hosted an inaugural First Responder training programme aimed at educating the likes of local fire-fighting services and paramedics around what could potentially be different from what they’re used to when it comes to responding to an accident involving an EV.

“EV’s are increasing in popularity and will have an extensive presence on our roads within the next five years. While EV’s will present new and unique challenges to our emergency services, there are effective ways to ensure safe and operative responses to any EV related incident. Skilled and qualified personnel is key to all of this. Audi is proud to start the educational training process with our National Fire and Emergency Services teams, helping to keep them and South Africans safe on the roads. Understanding the basic EV construction and technicalities will empower emergency and fire services to react with confidence while saving lives, but also limiting as much damage as possible to the vehicle,” says Sascha Sauer, Head of Audi South Africa.

In truth, unless the accident is so severe that the vehicle’s structure is compromised and the bodywork deformed to a point where the car’s battery is exposed, all modern EVs undergo the same strictly mandated crash safety routines as current combustion engine derivatives. That said, a full-house five-start NCAP safety rating carries the same weight regardless of whether the vehicle is powered by fuel or via a battery.

The most obvious thing first responders will check when arriving at the scene of an accident involving an EV is whether the car is still “running”, with its transmission engaged. Silent in their workings, it’s necessary to gain visual confirmation via the car’s instrument cluster whether there’s a danger of it potentially moving mid-rescue. That said, all modern cars holding a five-star NCAP crash test rating are engineered to shut down completely should the airbags deploy.

In the event of a serious accident where an EV’s structure is compromised, first responders are trained to look for signs fire, including smoke and odours. Here it’s advisable to make use of high-voltage gloves while cooling the battery pack as best as possible. The situation obviously begins to escalate if the battery catches fire.

When it comes to the extraction of injured occupants, a database of safety sheets pertaining to the wiring and configuration of every respective all-electric or, indeed, hybrid derivate is (should be) broadly available for inspection prior to any cutting work being carried out. These full-colour diagrams highlight the exact location of the car’s high-voltage battery, as well all orange high-voltage cables and the position of a mandatory service plug for the instant de-activation of all the car’s systems.

“With the arrival of more and more electric vehicles on our roads and across the country, the training of this nature was invaluable to our First Responder teams. It is great to see that the future of automotive is taking place in South Africa and that our teams are seen as an important stakeholder within this new era. Thank you to Audi to exposing us to this new topic,” says Acting Director of Fire Services, Thibedi Jappie Lengoabala.

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