Skip to main content

Article Highlights: 

  • Volvo delivered a new fully-operational XC40 Recharge electric SUV to the famed Boston Fire Department. 
  • The Swedish automaker intended the electric vehicle for the firefighters of Boston to better prepare effective extrication and rescue tactics when working with EVs. 
  • Battery Electric Vehicles require special extrication and rescue considerations to ensure the safety of occupants and first responders. 

When firefighters and emergency medical personnel arrive on the scene of a motor vehicle accident (MVA) involving cars and trucks, their first priority is scene safety. Our first responders are only as effective as their ability to safely carry out their jobs. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) present unique challenges to firefighters and require specific special considerations. As a result, Volvo Car USA recognized this problem and gave a new fully electric XC40 Recharge SUV to the professionals in the Boston Fire Department. 

Are electric cars safe in accidents?

As EVs gain popularity, it is becoming clear that gas-powered vehicles are not inherently safer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the absence of flammable liquid makes EVs less prone to fires. Furthermore, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge a Top Safety Pick+ rating. However, the electric Volvo SUV isn’t the only one. either. The IIHS also awarded the Top Safety Pick+ rating to the Audi e-tron and Tesla Model 3. For Ford fans, the IIHS also awarded the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E a Top Safety Pick status. 

Volvo XC40 Boston Fire Department better ways to work with EVs
A Volvo XC40 Recharge EV is a Top Safety Pick+ | Frederic J. Brown, Getty Images

Why do people think EVs like the Volvo XC40 Recharge are unsafe? 

While EVs do many things better than their gas-powered counterparts, there are a couple of concerns. First, lithium-ion batteries are dangerous. Battery fires can start a chain reaction and reportedly burn for weeks after a crash. The phenomenon is called “thermal runaway” and poses a risk to occupants, bystanders, and firefighters. 

Furthermore, in kinetic MVAs with trapped occupants, first responders have to use tools like hydraulic rams, cutters, and spreaders. EVs like the Volvo XC40 Recharge possess unique dangers to firefighters using these tools. If a firefighter were to inadvertently disturb a high voltage component, lives could be at risk. 

How is Volvo helping first responders handle EV accidents safely? 

Volvo XC40 Boston Fire Department better focus on safety with EVs
First responders have to ensure scene safety when cutting | RJ Sangosti, Getty Images

In addition to donating a Volvo XC40 Recharge to the Boston Fire Department, Volvo installed a few measures to protect first responders during extrication. First, the XC40 features a battery safety cage with independently sealed modules to prevent damage. Next, Volvo colored the high voltage cables brightly so firefighters know to avoid them when cutting. Finally, and most practical, Volvo installed a readily accessible high voltage power shutoff switch. 

These measures are invaluable, but perhaps the most crucial contribution is information. Volvo Car USA providing information and a tangible reference will likely save lives. The Boston Fire Department is grateful, and they will use the vehicle to improve upon EV extrication tactics. Scroll down to the following article to read about another electric car. 


Electric Vehicles: Are EVs Really Environmentally Friendly?