04.3 EV traction battery fire behaviour
A traction battery fire has unique characteristics
Earlier, we looked how it can be difficult to identify an electric vehicle from the blue 'EV' numberplate badge, or other external features.
Understanding how a traction battery fire progresses may assist in early identification, in order to establish the appropriate emergency response.
Interesting to note; an electric vehicle traction battery under 50% state of charge (SoC) is less likely to go into thermal runaway. Under 25% SoC is it unlikely the battery will go into thermal runaway or ignite.
We can also identify that an EV is involved in an emergency incident, by looking for traction battery fire characteristics
What are they & how do we recognise them?
When arriving at a vehicle fire, look for one or more of these signs that you might be dealing with an electric vehicle lithium ion traction battery fire.
A dashboard fault code is often first indication of battery short circuit
Large cloud of dark & light vapour - highly flammable
Popping noises as cells vent & whistling/hissing noises as gas escapes
Ignition of jet-like, directional flames at up to 1000 degrees celcius
Reduction in vapour cloud as it is consumed by flames
Increased fire activity & possible projection of debris
Watch: EV traction battery fire behaviour (volume on)
Video credit: Lawrence Choong
An electric Nissan Shuike on charge at a DC unit ignited, detroying four other vehicles.
Dark cloud of heavy metal particles
Whistling noise of venting gases
Lighter vapour cloud above vehicle
Small vapour cloud explosion, vapour cloud is consumed
Jet-like, directional flames
Listen for popping noises, watch for debris projectiles in centre of the screen