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.
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
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.