The EV switch will require a lot of EV-specific solutions, one of the most important being how to put out battery fires. Via RideApart, Austrian fire services company Rosenbauer, the same one that gave the U.S. its first electric fire truck, has developed a remotely-operated fire extinguishing system for lithium-ion batteries that pumps water directly into a battery housing. EVs aren’t more likely to catch fire than an ICE-powered vehicle, but battery chemistries can cause hotter electrical fires that, because of the physical properties of the housing, can reignite. After a Tesla caught fire in Houston in April this year, Houston firefighters needed 28,000 gallons of water to put the fire out for good after it reignited twice. NBC News reported that the typical ICE fire can be put out with around 300 gallons.
The Rosenbauer unit comes in two pieces, an extinguishing unit and an operating unit, connected by water hoses. The firefighters need to get the extinguishing unit either between the battery and the road if the EV is still on its wheels, or attached to the outside or the inside of the vehicle near the battery if the EV is on its side or roof. After that, firefighters can operate the unit from a distance of about 25 feet away. On their command, the extinguishing unit drives a mandrel with a piercing lance into the battery with a force of several tons, then sends water through the lance to flood the interior of the battery with water. The unit can be left attached to the battery during transport, so as long as there’s still a water supply, more water can be pushed into the battery in case of reignition.
Rosenbauer said its tested the system with factory, professional, and voluntary fire departments in Europe, and on different battery designs with the desired results and integration with current department tactics. We’re looking forward to seeing it in operation; in pictures, a firefighter places the mandrel unit under an EV, we want to know how the mandrel unit is placed under or on a car already in flames. The system is available to order now, deliveries begin next year.