04 - What is an EV fire?

What do we mean when we say 'EV fire'?

Throughout this project & website, an EV fire is one where the lithium ion high voltage battery of a passenger electric vehicle is involved in fire. A passenger EV is one that uses a high voltage (above 60V) battery to provide momentum to the vehicle & the battery requires external plug-in power to charge up.

We've looked at what an EV traction battery does, how it's constructed & where it's typically located.

An EV traction battery fire involves the battery going into thermal runaway (a concept we discuss soon) & causing a fire in the battery pack of a passenger electric vehicle.

If an electric vehicle catches fire without involving the battery pack, it is treated like any other vehicle fire. We have not included non-battery EV fires in our research.

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An electric vehicle that catches fire without involving the traction battery is suppressed like any other vehicle fire.

An electric vehicle traction battery that goes into thermal runaway & causes a fire, presents new challenges for emergency responders.

Watch: battery pack explainer video using a converted vintage Land Rover

Video credit: EV FireSafe

What's inside an electric vehicle battery pack & how's it constructed...an explainer for emergency responders.

What are the challenges for emergency responders?

While there are a number of similarities to ICE vehicle fires, electric vehicle lithium ion traction battery fires present a number of emerging challenges that we're about to look at in detail, including:

Thermal runaway makes it difficult to extinguish a traction battery fire

Toxic vapour cloud of flammable gases poses respiratory & explosion risks

Even once suppressed, there is a risk of fire reignition due to thermal runaway

As a rapidly emerging technology, EV traction battery fires are not yet well understood by emergency agencies

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Which is why we've created this website - to better understand the risks to & challenges for...

...emergency responders, tow truck drivers, storage yards, wreckers, automotive workshops, auction houses, fleet managers, drivers & the general public from electric vehicle traction battery fires.

Based on our research & on discussions with experts from the electrochemistry, fire & emergency, electric vehicle & safety sectors, in this section we look at what we know about global incidents, progression of an EV fire, how thermal runaway occurs, explore risks, & a range of best practice suppression challenges & techniques.