ELECTRIC VEHICLE CRASHES AND FIRES
Electric Vehicle Crashes and Fires
Electric Vehicle Crashes and Fires
With automakers rolling out more and more electric vehicles (EV’s), a spike in the incidence of electric vehicle crashes and fires is sure to follow. EV accidents pose unique risks to the occupants of the car and the first responders.
While there’s no doubt that manufacturers design their vehicles with great priority given to safety and road worthiness, there is definitely a need for more Information and training, especially on the part of first responders on what to do in case of an electric car crash, or heaven forbid, a pile-up.
The Potential Dangers of Electric Vehicles Involved in a Crash
Rechargeable energy storage systems (RESS) are used to power EV’s. The system includes batteries, capacitors, and electromagnetic flywheels. Batteries, in particular, pose hazards that include:
Electrolyte (or other material, depending on what type of battery is used) can spill to surrounding areas due to damage to the protective cell casing.
In the case of lithium battery powered EV’s, the risk of fire is greater as lithium is highly reactive and the electrolytes very flammable.
For EV’s with lithium-ion batteries installed under the floor, crashes and electrical vehicle fires can turn deadly when any fluid is spilled. Laboratory tests show that a fire under this kind of situation can be very hard to control and is essentially unstoppable.
Chemical reactions can trigger extreme temperature or fire.
A compromised safety system brings an increased risk of electrical shock. Damage can result in electricals coming in contact with the car’s body.
While conventional cars’ electrical systems can also short circuit, this problem is magnified in electric vehicles. An average EV runs on 400 to 800 volt batteries. The possibility of electrocution should your body come in contact with the car’s body is a real concern.
There have also been reported cases of battery fires after crashes and electric vehicle fires. Batteries can reignite even after fires are extinguished. This can be attributed to the “stranded” energy that remains in a damaged battery.
Electrical Vehicle Crashes and Fires: The Response of Regulatory and Ruling Bodies
Because of the unique risks that electric vehicle crashes and fires pose, both to occupants and first responders alike, the National Transportation Safety Board has made recommendations on how to deal with them. Among them:
They have called for auto manufacturers to write guidelines on how to fight battery fires, limit chemical reactions that trigger extreme temperature or fire, and prevent battery reignition. The guidelines should also include safe storage of vehicles with damaged or defective lithium-ion batteries.
They also recommended that firefighter associations, and auto towing associations, essentially the first responders to accidents, to inform their members about the risks of electric vehicle crashes and fires, the protocols on dealing with residual energy remaining in the battery after a crash, and on the safe storage of EV’s with damaged batteries.
For it’s part, the National Fire Protection Association, responsible for providing training to first responders and tow companies, has already taken initiatives to address most of NTSB recommendations.
Of the 1.2 million first responders in the US, a quarter million had so far undergone training on how to extinguish EV battery fires and to jack up vehicles that makes it possible to douse batteries located underneath to limit incidence of reignition.
Finally, they have recommended to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to include the availability of an emergency response guide as part of its evaluation in five-star vehicle safety scores.
As part of the regulatory board’s recommendation, NHTSA should also form a caucus that would conduct a study on ways to safely de-energize EV lithium-ion batteries and reduce chemical reactions that cause extreme increase in battery temperature and pressure.
The NHTSA has responded to this by saying that an initiative is already in place to address the growing concerns about crashes and electric vehicle fires caused by batteries. The agency will work to oversee investigations of crashes and fires and analyze data gathered to help improve safety in electrical vehicles.
Crashes and Electrical Vehicle Fires: Safety Tips for Electric Vehicle Owners
The US Fire Safety Administration has these safety tips for electric vehicle owners in case they get involved in a crash or accident:
✔️ When reporting the accident, it’s important to inform emergency respondents that the vehicle involved is electric.
✔️ Even after a crash, always assume that the vehicle is still fully powered. A vehicle with its power on can pose electrocution risk to both passengers and first responders.
✔️ Before shutting off the engine, roll down the windows.
✔️ Remember to remove the ignition key.
✔️ Alight from the vehicle as soon as possible and keep a safe distance of at least 16 feet away, especially from vehicles that have suffered extensive damage.
✔️ To avoid electric shock, never touch the engine compartment and any of the electrical components, including batteries or any wiring under the hood.
✔️ Because batteries of electric vehicles can still reignite even after the fire has been extinguished, it’s important to follow these additional safety precautions for vehicles that have yet to be repaired:
✔️ Never attempt to repair the damage yourself. Always contact an authorized service provider or the vehicle manufacturer itself to undertake the necessary repairs.
✔️ Closely observe your vehicle’s battery and promptly report any leaking fluids, sparks, or smoke coming from it.
✔️ Severely damaged vehicles can still cause considerable damage. It’s best to safely store it outside and at least 50 feet away from flammable materials.
✔️ Damage to the high voltage battery and the electrical system can result in delayed release of toxic fumes and flammable gasses. It’s best to stay away from your damaged vehicle as much as possible.
Electrical Vehicle Crashes and Fires: In Conclusion
Electric cars are no more dangerous on the road than gasoline-propelled cars. In fact, in some ways, electric cars are safer than cars with internal combustion engines. However, they do pose the risk of a fire and electric shock due to the use of high voltage lithium ion batteries when involved in a crash.
With consumers looking for alternative modes of transportation that save on fuel cost and leave less impact on the environment, the sale of electric vehicles is likely to continue to rise.
Because of this, concerned government agencies are looking into how to improve safety for passengers and first responders alike during crashes and electric vehicle fires.
American Auto Care/ASR Cares About the Safety of You And Your Vehicle
At ASR (formerly American Auto Care), we “worry about your car so you don’t have to.”
Our automotive technicians are certified and trained to find the problem in your vehicle and fix it right the first time. We service all makes and models, both foreign and domestic brands, as well as Electric Vehicles, and Hybrids..
We offer the best auto repair service in Temecula Valley and have many satisfied clients from Riverside County, including Lake Elsinore, Corona, Murrieta, Temecula, Menifee, Hemet, and Chino.
Call us at (951) 461-2507 to schedule an appointment for diagnosis and car repair in Murrieta, CA, or schedule an appointment online.
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