Emergency Response to Incidents Involving Electric Vehicle Battery Hazards: Full-Scale Testing Results

R. Thomas Long Jr. and Andrew F. Blum
Exponent, Inc., USA

Presented at International Symposium on Fire Investigation, 2014

Fires involving cars, trucks, and other highway vehicles are a common concern for emergency responders. Between 2009 and 2011, there was an average of approximately 187,500 highway vehicle fires per year.  Fire Service personnel are accustomed to responding to conventional vehicle (i.e., internal combustion engine [ICE]) fires, and generally receive training on the hazards associated with those vehicles and their subsystems. However, in light of the recent proliferation of electric drive vehicles (EDVs), a key question for emergency responders is, “what is different with EDVs and what tactical adjustments are required when responding to EDV fires?”

The overall goal of this research program was to develop the technical basis for best practices for emergency response procedures for EDV battery incidents, with consideration for suppression methods and agents, personal protective equipment (PPE), and clean-up/overhaul operations. A key component of this project goal was to conduct full-scale fire testing of large format Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries as used in EDVs.

This article summarizes the full-scale fire tests performed, reviews the current emergency response tactics, and discusses what, if any, tactical changes relating to emergency response procedures for EDV battery incidents are required.

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