Electric and Hybrid High-Voltage Battery Car Fires
The United States has more than 2.5 million hybrid cars and 27,000 electric cars on the road today, and the number is growing rapidly. Every major car manufacturer is introducing new models. For battery manufacturers, automakers and firefighters, the newest challenge is high-voltage battery fires. The nickel-metal hydride batteries previously used were challenge enough, but the lighter, more powerful lithium-ion batteries have gained attention around the world from laptops catching fire to the problems with the new Boeing Dreamliner. Lithium is a high-temperature, combustible metal and the high-voltages make these batteries a Class C and Class D hazard.
Concern over these batteries led Bosch Industries, a battery manufacture in Germany, to search for a solution. In 2009, Bosch concluded testing of water, foam, powders and F-500 Encapsulator Agent on lithium-ion battery fires. F-500 EA was chosen as their product of choice. Bosch shared their findings with VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie), an international organization promoting the German auto industry. They also shared their test results with Baden-Wurttemburg State Fire School, who published an application guide for extinguishing lithium-ion battery car fires, recommending F-500 EA. Brandschutz Fire Fighter magazine in Germany published several articles noting the value of F-500 EA for fighting cars fires.
Dekra Automotive GmbH, tests and evaluates automobile components and has activities in 50 countries. Dekra performed their own testing on lithium-ion batteries. In April, 2013, Dekra, Daimler AG (Daimler trucks, Mercedes-Benz cars) and Deutsche ACCUmotive GmbH (lithium-ion battery manufacturer) presented their findings at the SAE International 2013 World Congress and Exposition in Detroit, MI. They concluded two agents performed well in testing, one was F-500 EA, the other a gel. Since the gel cannot penetrate a vehicle’s structure, they also noted F-500 EA would be the preferred agent for an actual car fire.
The future is here and with it comes new challenges. In this case, firefighting lithium-ion car fires. Germany has led the way in testing and solutions. F-500 Encapsulator Agent is the product of choice.
F-500 EA and Lithium-ion Battery Fires - Chronology of Events
As with any large industry, Hazard Control Technologies has made inroads with niche applications. With the automotive industry, F-500 EA is used to extinguish fires in machining and casting components, especially modern aluminum, magnesium and titanium components, such as steering columns, door frames, dashboards, seat frames, transmission and clutch housings and many more. In an effort to reduce weight to save fuel, the auto industry is relying more and more on these lightweight metals. These metals present a challenge since they are combustible Class D metals. Once ignited, conventional extinguishing methods fail. Water explodes when applied to burning titanium and magnesium, but F-500 EA creates a protective skin around water drops, preventing them from exploding. The cooling properties of F-500 EA rapidly cool these metals from thousands of degrees in minutes. These combustible metals not only present a problem in machining, but also to firefighters confronting a fully involved vehicle on the highway. Water can cause a violent flashover, but F-500 EA is safe to apply and probably the fastest way to extinguish a vehicle fire.
Tire fires can be found in multiple industries, such as recycling and rubber production, but they are also a part of the automotive industry. From warehousing tires to the firefighters that approach a burning car, tire fires are a challenge. Although they are generally classified as a Class A fire, burning tires begin to exude the petroleum that is a large percentage of their composition. This makes tires more of a Class B fire. Tires are also a three-dimensional fire. Water is not very effective on Class B fires and foam will have trouble suffocating the fire. Nothing works on Tire fires like F-500 EA.