Rhode Island Issues Special License Plates For Electric Vehicles To Protect First Responders

3 years ago by Mark Kane 21

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In July, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed into law a bill creating the special license plates for electric and hybrid cars to give first responders and emergency crew members a warning of high voltage.

Below the plate number, there will be words “Electric/Hybrid” instead of “Ocean State”.

“The plates will be made available at no additional cost upon first registration of an electric or hybrid vehicle starting this fall. Those switching from an existing plate will be charged $21.50, unless they want to keep the same plate number, which will cost $31.50.”

Town Planner Robert Ericson, who first prompted Sen. Edward O’Neill to sponsor the bill, stated:

“It’s so they can quickly identify the vehicle has a high-voltage line running along the bottom of the car.”

Sen. Edward O’Neill commented:

“It is not very well-known that rescue workers can get electrocuted from using jaws of life on an electric vehicle, but when that information came to light I wanted us to be proactive about the issue. What is happening out there is our police, fire and rescue workers, along with tow truck operators, sometimes get to a scene of an accident and don’t know whether they’re dealing with an electric or hybrid vehicle. The legislation allows first responders to determine what instrument is appropriate to use for the rescue of those trapped inside electric vehicles quickly, simply by looking at the license plate.”

Is this a good idea to create special license plates for electric vehicles?  Should this be done in every state?

Source: ValleyBreeze.com

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21 responses to "Rhode Island Issues Special License Plates For Electric Vehicles To Protect First Responders"

  1. MDEV says:

    Great idea and only the rear plate for the states that required 2 plates. That will be safe and efficient.

  2. ClarksonCote says:

    I suppose a rescue worker can get executed using the jaws of life, but from what I’ve seen most EV’s are designed to make that very difficult. Cutting through the roof or doors will not cause any high voltage lines to be cut in every EV and PHEV that I’m aware of. I suppose if you needed to cut through the bottom of the car, then it’s a concern. Does that happen often/ever though?

    1. Brian says:

      I see plenty of vehicles upside down in ditches around here as soon as the snow starts flying (you’d think, being the snowiest city in the US, people would know how to drive in snow!).

      But then again, most of those vehicles are SUVs, which – at the moment – are not likely to be EVs or Hybrids. I would assume that it’s much harder to roll an EV with its low center of gravity.

      1. Storky says:

        These concerns were first addressed when the the Prius and Insight hit US shores in early 2001.

        http://www.firehouse.com/article/10544679/hybrid-vehicles-a-university-of-extrication-special-feature

  3. vdiv says:

    So for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would they also have a special plate stating that there is a 10,000 psi hydrogen tank on board? It would be rather tragic if the first responders cut a pressurized fuel line…

    1. Nick says:

      I suspect this isn’t a big issue, since all factory CNG vehicles have normally closed solenoids which help keep the risk from the high pressure lines fairly low.

      1. vdiv says:

        Aren’t CNG vehicles running at lower pressures, maybe 3,000 psi? Still pretty high.

  4. Leptoquark says:

    There has been special first responder training for plug-in cars for years. They know that anything orange has high voltage. I don’t see what a special license plate would add, other than a relief to the first responders that there is no chance of a dangerous gasoline fire.

    1. kdawg says:

      Unless it’s a hybrid.

  5. kdawg says:

    Seems a bit excessive. In 50 years, if most cars are electric and only a few are gassers, will they need a plate that says “Gasser” so the response crews know there’s a tank of flammable/explosive liquid in the car?

    1. A cut gas line is much easier to spot than a cut electrc wire. 😉

      While the designs of EV provide safety and first responders get training, there are additional beniefits to having an “EV Plate” … eg: makes enforcing ICE’ng of charging spots much easier. It is also a good PR for EVs, more so as EV designs go mainstream and look like just any other vehicle on the road.

      1. sven says:

        “. . . makes enforcing ICE’ng of charging spots much easier.”

        How? I would think the vehicle not being plugged in would be a dead give away.

  6. Ellison says:

    This is overkill and a costly, needless program. The only good is that it may be a fun and positive way to distinguish EVs, depending on the design of the plates. It should be no cost to retrofit if they are really scared about EVs.

    The fire departments can clearly figure out on scene which vehicles are plugins based on badging and their charge doors while firing up the jaws of life (which also totals the cars involved).

    1. sven says:

      “. . . firing up the jaws of life (which also totals the cars involved).”

      I think that if the jaws of life are needed to extricate a passenger from a car, the car is already totaled before the jaws of life do their thing.

    2. Storky says:

      Not to mention the dayglow orange high voltage cables and fittings. The color of the cables is enough to warn of high energy danger. Moreover, First responders always carry lineman gloves and are instructed how to disable high voltage systems by removing the connectors that put the batteries in series, or disconnecting low voltage auxiliary batteries which disable high voltage circuits by opening relays.

  7. Phr3d says:

    not That expensive and a good idea – no one wants responders feeling the need to phone home and confirm if ‘this is the EV model’ of the wrecked car, volvo & e-golf comes to mind as there will be others.
    Highway and Interstate crashes, particularly weather related, can tear up Any car in ways the NHTSA can only nightmare about. Exposed 380V lines are instantly tragic if a fail-safe fails to safe.
    Alternative view: since plates are destroyed in any high-damage front/rear accident that could cause the level of damage that would expose internal components, they might be of No Help whatsoever.

  8. Loboc says:

    I seriously doubt that the license plate will survive when jaws are needed.

    If they are going to badge cars they need to badge all of them. Like the hazmat placards on semis. There will be so many different combinations that most will need two.

    Even cars with stop/start have some sort of electrical power system.

    Or, do something less likely to be destroyed. Start transmitting VIN from the black box like aircraft do a ping now. Make the whole thing VIN based.

  9. Curtis Ling says:

    i dont see how the license plate will survive in a accident

  10. CptE311 says:

    I look forward to additional markings that increase the chance of successfully identifying a car with a HV battery. Accurate and timely information has a large effect upon responder safety and the ability to mitigate hazards.

    License plates regularly survive crashes of such severity where the make and model of the vehicle are not immediately apparent due to the level of structural deformation.

    If equipped, charge ports may no longer be easily identified. I drive a Volt and would not expect the charge port to be easily recognized following a driver-to-driver side offset head-on (fairly common).

    Orange cables are great, even when they are blue 🙂 Finding them before making cuts can be a challenge.

    These cables require shielding from environmental factors and from passengers. This results in cable runs being enclosed in races that can make visual identification difficult.

    We try to avoid cutting through hidden races in the floor pan or underbodies by using published response guides, but component locations can change within model years without notice…

    HV battery vehicles have their challenges in rescue operations, but they pale in comparison to those involving gasoline.