Detroit (Associated Press)-According to US investigators, electric car fires pose a safety hazard to first responders, and the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to deal with fires are not sufficient.
The National Transportation Safety Board (National Transportation Safety Board) said on Wednesday that there is also a gap between industry safety standards and research on high-voltage lithium-ion battery fires, especially in high-speed, serious crashes.
The agency has no law enforcement powers and can only make recommendations and require manufacturers to write response guidelines for vehicles to extinguish battery fires and limit chemical heat runaway and reignition. The guidelines should also include information on how to safely store vehicles with damaged lithium-ion batteries.
These suggestions were made when automakers launched a variety of new electric vehicle models, and many in the industry believed that the turning point from gasoline power to clean electricity.
In its report on Wednesday, the agency also asked firefighters and the Automobile Towing Association to inform members of the fire hazards and how to handle the remaining energy in the battery after a crash, and how to safely store vehicles with damaged batteries.
It requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to include an emergency guide when calculating the five-star vehicle safety score.
NHTSA should also establish an alliance to study ways to power off batteries and reduce the hazards of thermal runaway, which is a chemical reaction that can lead to uncontrolled battery temperature and pressure increases.
NTSB began investigating battery fires after collisions and fires in Lake Forest and Mountain View, California, and Ft. 201
All four cars are manufactured by Tesla, which is the best-selling electric car manufacturer in the United States
The agency said: “The risk of electric shock and battery reignition/fire comes from the’retained’ energy remaining in the broken battery.”
In the Lake Forest fire in August 2017, Tesla Model X batteries caught fire after the vehicle left the road and crashed into a residential garage at high speed. NTSB engineer and highway investigator Thomas Barth said in the agency video The firemen poured thousands of gallons of water on the roof of the car. He said: “They did not realize that water must be directed to the battery compartment under the car to cool the battery and stop the reaction that caused the fire.”
The NTSB wrote in an 80-page report that after reviewing the emergency response guidelines of 36 manufacturers, it was found that everyone can reduce the risk of high-voltage electric shock, including the method of disconnecting the battery. However, none of these guidelines mention the risks of limiting the energy stored in the battery, such as procedures to minimize ignition or instructions on where and how to spray water to cool the battery.
NTSB wrote that one way to dispose of a damaged battery is to pull it out of the vehicle and soak it in a salt water bath to release energy.
The National Fire Protection Association, which provides training to first responders and towing companies, said it has addressed most of the NTSB’s recommendations. Andrew Klock, chief manager of emerging issues, said the team has conducted training on how to extinguish a battery fire, then jack up the vehicle and pour the battery with water to limit ignition.
Klock said the NFPA has trained about 250,000 first responders, but there are 1.2 million firefighters nationwide.
NHTSA said in a statement that it launched a battery safety program last week to address concerns about electric vehicles and structural fires caused by batteries. The agency said that under the initiative, the agency will analyze data, investigate fires and supervise investigations into electric vehicle collisions.
The Automotive Innovation Alliance, a trade organization for large automakers, said it will review the recommendations and cooperate with the Fire Protection Association, NHTSA, Association of Automotive Engineers and other organizations to improve safety.
A message was left on Wednesday, seeking comment from Tesla and the National Fire Protection Association.