Report on how ready the First Responders are for impromptu EVs Fires?

The passenger electric vehicle sales have registered a huge increase within a short time. For instance, the numbers have changed from 450,000 to 2.1 million between 2015 and 2019. That’s according to Bloomberg’s service in charge of primary research, Bloomberg NEF. Other findings are an increase in alternative fuel vehicles (AFV), including hybrid/electric vehicles. Forecasts show that more than half of passenger vehicles’ total sales will be electric by 2040.

However, there is a drawback: the unpreparedness of fire departments in case of burning lithium-ion batteries that might increase with the increase in EVs. According to a report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the training and equipment to deal with battery-related fires in many departments leave a lot to be desired.

Lithium-ion batteries existed way before the discovery of Electric Vehicles. They are used in laptops, cell phones, and e-cigarette. In some instances, they have exploded or caught fire, and the EVs are no exception. Such incidents occur if it faces a puncture, damage, or exposure to extreme heat. Some examples are a Tesla Model S in 2013 along a Seattle highway and a Porsche Taycan in February 2020 while in a Florida garage.

Fires are not new, which explains why emergency responders deal with trucks and cars among other highway vehicles that catch fire quite well. However, it is different when it comes to lithium –ion batteries since the variables and risks are not the same as those of similar fires.

For instance, a burning electric vehicle produces up to 100 organic compounds. Some of them are extremely dangerous, including hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide. Therefore, there is a need for responders to wear protective gear if they want to stay alive. Other concerns are re-ignition and the fact that typical fire extinguishing mechanisms don’t work when it comes to those fires.

The heat is high enough to produce a temperature of 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is way higher than gasoline fuel fire. Using foam or water is not an option because it could lead to flare-ups and electric shock in other cases. Therefore, it is understandable that firefighters, witnesses, passengers, and drivers may not be able to deal with it if it was to happen.

According to NTSB, training firefighters is essential, especially at such a time when electric vehicle fires seem to be increasing. A survey showed that out of 32 U.S. fire departments involved, 31 percent didn’t offer its crew special training. However, with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) help, training could be available for alternative fuel vehicles. Consequently, both the first and second responders would be better positioned in case of an outbreak.