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  • Batteries

    Recent news reports make it obvious that a challenge to the fire service these days is lithium batteries, large and small.

    A few thoughts:

    EV batteries are presenting as fire load issues that have been reported as taking thousands of gallons of water to extinguish, sometimes including actually submerging the vehicle. We should take note, though, of the comments of a GM employee after an apparent EV fire at GM's Proving Grounds in Michigan: "These will be exposure events." I read this to mean that we simply won't be able to put them out.

    How will we deal with this? I've seen an image of a large dumpster-type container in which the vehicle can be placed, followed by filling the container with water. There have been reports of digging holes, placing the EV in the hole and filling the hole with water. Not everyone has the resources to own such a device.

    Perhaps we have to learn to take a hands-off approach. Isolate the vehicle and let it burn...

    Of course, sometimes there are exposures we need to protect, where the EV is adjacent to a structure or other vehicles, or even inside (ie, a garage). My thought is that we need to develop a means of snagging the burning EV and dragging it out of harm's way. Large hooks (as seen on wreckers) on the end of long poles might allow us to snag the undercarriage from a relatively safe distance, then drag the vehicle out into the open with an attached chain or cable. Perhaps some sort of penetrating hook (rather like a penetrating nozzle) could pierce the hood or trunk, and again, drag the vehicle out into the open.

    Someone is already marketing a blanket with which to cover a burning vehicle. The question is whether such a blanket can withstand the heat and duration of an EV fire.

    Drag it out into the open, cover it up, and let it burn itself out.

    Rescue of potential victims is outside the purview of this discussion.

    As for smaller batteries - bikes and scooters (my granddaughter just got an e-scooter for Christmas) seem to be where the problem lies. Perhaps it's time to insist on "charging boxes" which can suppress a fire should one occur. Such a box would need to be able to contain the fire for the duration. Smoke might still be an issue (we don't need the container itself to explode), but at least the fire would not be able to spread to adjacent furnishings, etc. Most such vehicles have removable batteries, I believe, so that shouldn't be an issue.

    I don't think this problem is going to go away in the foreseeable future - so we've got to seek out solutions.


  • #2
    Honestly I like the drag the car to a "safe" place and let it burn itself out. It sure woulod eliminate polluted ground water run off.
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
    Millions of people living as foes
    Maybe it's not too late
    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

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    • #3
      I think the answer lies in more regulation of the manufacturing process. There are very thin barriers between the cells of these batteries. Manufacturer defect or physical damage allows shorts to occur. Once that happens it becomes a chain reaction with a violent release of heat energy. Quality batteries made here in the US would help a lot. Or get better at making imports be of better quality. Also, public education is huge. Only the smallest of batteries should be charged inside a building. Scooters definitely not. These batteries can continue to burn when literally submerged entirely under water.
      The car fires are another story. I would assume those fires occur due to the batteries being physically damaged somehow. Mostly because I assume that the manufacturing process is better. But all the water in the world can fail to extinguish them and we are told they need to be monitored for at least 45 minutes to be sure they don't reignite.

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