The booming number of electric vehicles on the roads may be considered good for the environment, but it is causing concern among fire fighters.
Although electric vehicles are statistically less likely to catch fire than an internal combustion engine car, incidents involving a lithium-ion battery can be far more serious and difficult to extinguish – especially if in an enclosed space such as an underground or multi-storey car park which large fire engines cannot access.
Once a battery pack has been compromised by an accident or external fire, it can be difficult to tackle the resulting blaze as the energy contained with the cells is released, causing a ‘thermal runaway’. Previous ways of preventing this or fighting the fire involve extreme measures such as immersing the entire car in water for days in large bags or shipping containers.
A new, more practical way of tackling these incidents has been developed along with a new rapid intervention vehicle which can deliver the crew and equipment to locations where height may be limited, such as car park structures.
This, in combination with traditional firefighting techniques, can help prevent large fires escalating such as the recent incidents at Kings Dock car park in Liverpool and Stavanger Airport in Norway.
In these cases, none of the large fire and rescue vehicles were able to enter the structures in the early stages of the fire due to height restrictions.
By the time crews entered on foot with fire-fighting equipment and water, the fire had developed beyond control. The resulting devastation led to thousands of cars being destroyed, an airport and venue being closed followed by costly re-building.
Industry specialists have co-operated to develop a new generation of fire fighting vehicle, developed specifically to fight both conventional and Electric Vehicle fires in car parks at the early stages – wherever the location.
It is equipped with a special lance to punch through protective casings of batteries and directly inject solutions to smoother the cells and flames to prevent thermal runaway and also quickly extract trapped persons.
A version of the York made Hiload is also being evaluated for military roles to replace Land Rover Defender and Pinzgauer fleets.