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Beware of Batteries: EV batteries may pose a threat to emergency responders

Toronto, Ontario — With electric vehicles gaining popularity, emergency responders may be in serious danger–especially since the automaker’s emergency response guides are suppositively not up to par. 

According to a new report conducted by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) emergency responders may not be able to rely on emergency response guides provided by automakers when dealing with an electrical vehicle fire. 

The investigation examined three electric vehicle crashes resulting in fires and one non-crash fire involving an electric vehicle. 

In each case, emergency responders faced major safety risks related to electric shock, thermal runaway, battery ignition and reignition, and stranded energy.

The investigation also found three out of the four crash-damaged batteries reignited after the fire was extinguished. This reignition is said to be caused by thermal runaway, an unrestrained increase in temperature and pressure caused by damaged battery cells, which can cause the batteries to burn for hours or even days after the fact.

The threat of reignition not only poses a threat to emergency responders but it also could put tow truck drivers at risk because the electric vehicle may reignite after being hauled away. It also makes storing the damaged vehicle and battery a challenge. 

The report concluded that the main safety risks for  Emergency Responders when dealing with Lithium-Ion Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles are the inadequacy of vehicle manufacturers’ emergency response guides and the gaps in safety standards and research related to high-voltage lithium-ion batteries involved in high-speed, high-severity crashes.

The NTSB says that more research is needed to deal with these issues, specifically, the stranded energy that remains in a damaged electric vehicle battery as well as how to store an electric vehicle with a damaged lithium-ion battery.

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