Severity
Incident
Leak
No
Ignition
No

DESCRIPTION: On a Friday afternoon in 2007 a traffic accident occurred at the corner of two urban streets. Two vehicles were involved. Each vehicle contained a single driver (no passengers). Vehicle 1 was a Fuel Cell Vehicle. Vehicle 2 was a conventional Toyota Camry. Vehicle 1 was traveling west, approaching an intersection with a green light, and proceeded into the intersection. Vehicle 2 was traveling north on a cross street. The driver of Vehicle 2 incorrectly perceived a green light and proceeded into the intersection. The vehicles collided in the intersection.

RESPONSE: The police were coincidentally in the area and able to respond quickly to the site. The vehicles were moved out of the intersection. Vehicle 1 (fuel cell vehicle) shut down upon impact and was pushed out of the intersection by the police officer. The fire department and EMTs were called to the scene of the accident, and arrived quickly. Both drivers were examined by the fire department and refused medical assistance. Medical release forms were signed by both drivers. INJURIES: The driver of Vehicle 1 sustained minor injuries on the arm as a result of the impact from the collision. The injuries sustained by the driver of Vehicle 1 were minimal; minor scrapes and redness on the forearm in a 1 - 2 inch area. The driver of Vehicle 2 did not sustain any injuries.

EQUIPMENT DAMAGE: Both vehicles sustained "minor to moderate" front-end damage according to the Police report. The driver's side air bag deployed in Vehicle 1. The impact of the collision occurred at the driver-side front quarter panel of Vehicle 1. The frame of the vehicle was damaged too significantly to repair. Digital photos were taken of the damage to the vehicles to document the damage.

RESPONDERS' KNOWLEDGE OF H2: Several emergency personnel teams responded to the vehicle accident. Those entities are listed below with the level of training that they had received about hydrogen and the fuel cell vehicle.

Police Department: Officers from the Police Department that arrived on site had not received hydrogen safety training.
Fire Department: Members of the Fire Department participated in hydrogen safety training, when offered by the project partners, prior to vehicle deployment and the station opening. However, the Fire Department personnel who responded to the incident had not received hydrogen safety training.
EMTs: The EMTs had not received hydrogen safety training.
Fleet Supervisor: The Supervisor that responded to the accident had participated in hydrogen safety training conducted by the fleet agency.

SAFETY PROCEDURES AND DAMAGE EVALUATION: According to the driver of Vehicle 1, the vehicle shut down upon impact. The vehicle was designed to shut down upon impact to isolate the hydrogen fuel and high voltage systems. At the scene of the accident, a visual inspection of the vehicle was performed. Additionally, the vehicle was checked with a sniffer to ensure that there were no hydrogen leaks. The Fire Department and EMTs were last to arrive at the accident site, following the inspection of the vehicles.

The automotive company's preliminary evaluation of the vehicle following the accident proved that the safety systems functioned as designed. The Emergency Shut-Down Procedure activated, and the hydrogen in the storage vessels was isolated. Upon further evaluation, the automotive company determined that the damage to the vehicle was severe despite the appearance of minimal body damage. The impact of the collision occurred at the driver-side front quarter panel of the vehicle. The frame of the vehicle was damaged too significantly to repair. In order for the vehicle to return to operation, the front section of the frame from the damaged vehicle would need to be severed and removed. A frame from another vehicle would then need to be welded to damaged vehicle. The timeline for this process is lengthy, therefore, the vehicle has been retired and the fuel cell stack has been salvaged and reused in another vehicle. The fuel cell supplier conducted an investigation of the fuel cell power plant within the vehicle. The evaluation of the fuel cell proved that the fuel cell system remained intact and unharmed by the impact of the collision.

Incident Date
Jul 13, 2007
Equipment
  • Hydrogen Production/Use Systems
  • Fuel Cell
  • Vehicle & Fueling Systems
  • Fuel Cell Vehicle
  • Hydrogen Storage Equipment
  • Gas cylinder
  • Safety Systems
  • emergency shut down procedures and disconnects
Damage and Injuries
Contributing Factors
Characteristics
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

The fuel cell vehicle that was involved in the accident has been retired. The fuel cell power plant from that vehicle has been removed and is being used in another fuel cell vehicle.
The fuel cell vehicle accident reinforced the need for training of drivers, supervisors and emergency response personnel. As an action item, this project team will conduct refresher training courses for the drivers and local emergency response personnel. The project leads conducted training classes on hydrogen safety and incident response for local emergency response personnel; including the local fire department and the police prior to vehicle deployment and the station opening. A significant learning by this project team is that emergency response agencies are subject to frequent personnel changes. As such, training should be repeated periodically.