Science & Technology

German firm launches new tech for firefighters to battle EV fires

One of the biggest problems with electric vehicles today in an accident is a puncture of the battery cells. When battery cells are punctured, flammable materials used in the construction of modern lithium-ion batteries can overheat and catch fire. It’s very difficult to put out a battery fire, and we’ve seen fire departments take some extreme actions in the past. In some instances, the entire car has been placed into a large tank of water.

A company called Rosenbauer has launched a new piece of equipment for firefighters, specifically for fighting battery fires in modern electric vehicles. The equipment is an EV-specific fire extinguisher that has an extinguishing unit and an operating unit. The design of the fire extinguisher allows firefighters to flood the battery cells with tons of water at a safe distance of about 25 feet away.

The way the extinguisher works is that an operator would position the extinguisher unit under the electric vehicle. The extinguishing mandrel is driven into the battery and can deliver enough water to sufficiently cool it and stop the fire. Not only is the system powerful enough to penetrate the tough metal protecting battery cells, but it’s also tough enough that if the EV is on its side or roof, the mandrel can penetrate through the interior, top, or truck to cool the battery cells.

Rosenbauer has tested the EV fire extinguisher on multiple battery designs, including cells utilizing pouch, prismatic, or round construction. The system has also been tested with fire departments establishing that it is compatible with their existing firefighting tactics and resources. The manufacturer says their extinguishing system is one of the best and most innovative ways to fight the risk of EV battery fires available. Currently, the EV firefighting system is available to be preordered, with units shipping in early 2022.

The manufacturer says that once the system penetrates the battery cells and cools them sufficiently, the car is ready to be transported. It’s designed so that water fills the battery housing providing efficient cooling to stop thermal runaway and extinguish the fire. In addition, the system can operate from the normal pressure of the water supply. That means no additional pumps are required to generate the pressure needed for the device to operate.

Another big benefit of the system is that it is designed so the extinguisher can remain in the battery during transport and in the quarantine area. It has been noted multiple times in the past, particularly during crash testing, that sometimes batteries don’t catch fire right away; it can take days before the fire begins. However, with the extinguisher mandril embedded in the battery, it can be easily extinguished again if the fire flares up during transport.

The extinguisher system was developed in Germany, but presumably, it’s available globally. With the major push towards moving the masses to electric vehicles, serious accidents involving electric vehicles will certainly increase. As Chevrolet has seen, defects in battery manufacturing can cause fires without an accident at all. The automaker has seen at least a dozen fires in its recalled Bolt electric vehicle there were all caused by a manufacturing defect on the assembly line at manufacturer LG. The recall to fix those issues and replace the battery packs in every Bolt produced so far will cost LG billions of dollars.

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