DETROIT (AP) – Fires in electric vehicles pose a risk to the safety of first responders and manufacturers’ guidelines on how to deal with them are inadequate, according to US investigators.
There are also gaps in industry safety standards and research into high-voltage fires with lithium-ion batteries, especially in high-speed severe accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
The agency, which has no implementing powers and can only make recommendations, called on manufacturers to write vehicle-specific response manuals to fight battery fires and limit chemical leakage and re-ignition. The guidelines should also include information on the safe storage of vehicles with damaged lithium-ion batteries.
The recommendations come at a time when carmakers are launching several new models of electric vehicles, with many in the industry embracing a turning point in the transition from petrol to cleaner electricity.
The agency in its report on Wednesday also asked firefighters and towing associations to inform members about the risks of fire and how to deal with the energy left in the battery after an accident and how to safely store a vehicle with a damaged battery. .
And it wants the National Road Safety Administration to include the availability of an emergency response guide when calculating five-star vehicle safety ratings.
NHTSA must also build a coalition to explore ways to deplete the batteries and reduce the dangers of thermal avoidance, a chemical reaction that causes an uncontrolled rise in temperature and pressure in the battery.
The NTSB has launched an investigation into battery fires following crashes and fires in Lake Forest and Mountain View, California, and at the Fort. Lauderdale, Florida, in 201
All four cars are manufactured by Tesla, which is the best-selling electric vehicle manufacturer in the United States.
“The risks of electric shock and re-ignition / fire of the battery stem from the ‘blocked’ energy that remains in the damaged battery,” the agency said.
In a fire in Lake 2017 in Lake Forest, a Tesla Model X battery caught fire after the vehicle left the road and crashed into a residential garage at high speed. Thomas Bart, an NTSB engineer and highway researcher, said in a video of the agency that firefighters poured thousands of gallons of water on the roof of the vehicle. “They didn’t realize they had to direct water to the battery compartment under the car to cool the battery and stop the reaction that caused the fire,” he said.
A 80-page report by the NTSB said that a review of 36 emergency response guidelines found that all had ways to reduce the risk of high-voltage shocks, including methods to turn off the battery. But none of the manuals talked about limiting the risk of energy stored in batteries, such as procedures to minimize re-ignition or instructions on where and how to spray water to cool the batteries, the agency said.
One way to deal with damaged batteries is to pull them out of the car and soak them in a salt water bath to discharge energy, writes NTSB.
The National Fire Protection Association, which provides training to first responders and towing companies, said it has already responded to most of the NTSB’s recommendations. Andrew Clock, lead manager of emerging issues, says the group has conducted training on how to put out battery fires, then lift cars and water the batteries to limit re-ignition.
The NFPA has trained about 250,000 responders, but there are 1.2 million firefighters nationwide, Klock said.
In a statement, NHTSA said it launched a battery safety initiative last week to address growing concerns about fires in electric vehicles and battery-powered structures. As part of the initiative, the agency will analyze data, investigate fires and monitor investigations into electric vehicle accidents, the agency said.
The Automotive Innovation Alliance, a large trade group for automakers, said it would review the recommendations and work with fire associations, NHTSA, the Society of Automotive Engineers and others to improve safety.
Reports were left Wednesday for comment by Tesla and the National Fire Protection Association.