Stubborn battery flames in electric car accidents solved by a new firefighting tool
The battery technologies that electric car makers use are developing leaps and bounds. Panasonic recently showed a prototype of its cylindrical 4680 battery, of Tesla Battery Day fame, indicating that its game-changing design will soon hit a retail Tesla. What has not changed is the headache that a burning battery presents for firefighters called to the spot of an electric car accident. Putting out a spontaneously reigniting battery fire could take enormous amounts of time and water compared to burning ICE vehicles. One recent Tesla car crash in Texas resulted in firefighters dousing the electric car battery for four hours. They ultimately had to use 30,000 gallons of water, a monthlong amount for the local fire department.
Given the expected proliferation of electric vehicles on the road and the un-ironed kinks with systems like Tesla's Full Self-Driving mode, we can only expect accidents with electric cars to grow in quantity and danger levels. The top-down hosing of a crashed electric car has proven a less than ideal solution for the new burning EV battery challenge. Some companies offer dedicated EV fire systems like containers that house the on-fire car and spray it with water from all sides. These still have to be towed to the scene, making them expensive and cumbersome for fire departments to use.
Enter the Austrian fire truck company Rosenbauer which has invented a solution in the form of a high-pressure nozzle that goes under the electric vehicle, dousing the battery cells directly. Not only does the direct battery access require only up to 1,000 gallons of water, but it can also be attached to the towing vehicle in case the battery reignites, as so often happens in such electric vehicle accidents. The new EV firefighting nozzle can pierce through the battery pack housing and soak the cells directly. Meanwhile, the crew can safely operate the process from 25 feet distance upon deployment. Rosenbauer has tested the solution on all types of EV batteries, including cylindrical ones like the upcoming Panasonic 4680 pack, and the nozzle passed all tests with flying colors. According to Jürgen Peitz, Head of the VDA & VDIK Working Group "Rescuing people from vehicles involved in an accident":
The extinguishing of batteries is an important contribution to the safe use of electromobility, also in terms of society. This is why VDA/VDIK supports the topic and Opel, Volkswagen, BMW, Volvo, Tesla and Audi for instance, have provided battery packs of the latest generation and complete vehicles for the important and necessary fire tests over the past two years. The best way to avoid pollutants in the air and firefighting water is to extinguish quickly and efficiently. And that is what the Rosenbauer extinguishing system ensures in conjunction with an application that is as safe as possible for firefighters.
The contaminated water from such battery-extinguishing efforts is also an issue. The shorter this process takes with the least amount of water involved, the better. Fire departments interested in the new high-pressure electric car firefighting system can order it right now, and it will be delivered early next year.