A vehicle crashes into a tree. Fully trained first responders know the procedures for extricating the occupants, dealing with fire, or fire hazards, leaking fluids and disconnecting the 12 amp battery.
With the onset of all electric vehicles the scenario is different. There is no gas, fluids, gears. There is however a very powerful lithium driven battery system that allows for anywhere from 200 to 500+ miles of vehicle power.
How first responders deal with an electric vehicle crash/fire is a bit different, but somewhat the same as standard combustion engines.
Early first responders were leery using water to knock down a fire with high voltage electric battery systems, thinking mixing water and electricity was bad. Perhaps the use of foams, or dry suppression systems was called for.
The truth is that electric vehicle fires do require water to squelch flames. This, according to Matt Harding, a volunteer firefighter from Charlotte, North Carolina, familiar with Tesla all electric vehicles. Matt was in Newark on Tuesday doing a presentation to Newark and Lyons first responders who would be dealing with responses.
Mark emphasized that it is very difficult for massive battery packs to catch fire, but when it does occur knocking down flames is important and water use is additionally used for the important cooling down any battery system. He also emphasized not to crush, or rip apart battery packs that are well-sealed by manufacturers.
All-electric vehicles, depending on their positioning and model type, following an accident, should be ‘jacked-up’ to reveal the car underside, allowing firefighters access to battery components, usually running the floor of most vehicles.
Firefighters can also monitor battery packs for “hot spots” where the series of batteries can overheat causing further possible fire points.
Another important necessity with all-electric vehicles is locating and cutting the high voltage disconnect ‘loops’ in various models. This allows first
his responders the ability to shut off any of the high voltage battery packs battery.
Harding stated that even after the battery packs are disconnected and the vehicle towed away, it should be safely stored fifty feet away from and buildings, or other vehicles.
All-electric vehicles do still use 12 volt batteries for windows and peripheral electronics and this must also be disconnected. Harding added in test fires it was not unusual to pour 3000+ gallons on a vehicle to squelch flames.