With the recent release of the Toyota Prius Plugin Hybrid (PHEV) some emergency responders have asked how their response tactics would differ from the standard Prius or other hybrids. The answer is basically…not much. As with other plugin hybrids, this Prius model is essentially a traditional hybrid vehicle designed with the ability to be plugged into a level I or II charging station. These vehicles are designed with a higher capacity high-voltage battery than traditional hybrids in order to more effectively store the charge they receive. This allows for a greater use of the high voltage system to propel the vehicle and a reduction in the use of the gasoline engine. In the event the driver doesn’t plug the vehicle in, it will continue to function in the same manner as a regular hybrid.
From the perspective of the first responder it will also be handled just like a hybrid, addressing both the flammable liquids and high-voltage concerns at an incident scene. The most notable difference from our perspective is that you may respond to an incident where the vehicle is plugged into a charging station, something usually reserved for electric vehicles (EV). At that point you would handle it in a similar manner as you would an EV connected to a charging station; locate the power source that feeds it, and shut it down in order to isolate potential electrical hazards.
A Brief Overview of Hybrid vs. Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles - Electrical Vehicle Safety Training