As sales of electric vehicles (EVs) climb, so do concerns for the safety of first and second responders to EV-involved accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated several incidents of lithium-ion battery fires and reignition fires that prompted safety concern for these responders to EV crash sites, issuing their report, “Safety Risks to Emergency Responders from Lithium-Ion Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles“, discussed below.
The NTSB conducted investigations of four electric vehicle battery fires (in California and Florida) and reviewed manufacturer emergency responder guidance materials for crash fires. Electric vehicle fires caused by crash damage to a vehicle’s high-voltage lithium-ion battery or an internal failure of the battery, pose risks of fire, fire reignition and exposure to high voltage (electric shock) due to the stored energy in the battery. The NTSB’ review of the EV manufacturers guidance pointed to a lack of clarification on how to properly extinguish litium-ion battery fires, and the proper post-accident neutralization of the reserve energy contained in these batteries that could lead to fire reignitions.
The NTSB released the following recommendations in January 2021 to 22 manufacturers of electric vehicles equipped with high-voltage lithium-ion batteries:
- Model your emergency response guides on International Organization for Standardization standard 17840, as included in SAE International recommended practice J2990.
- Incorporate vehicle-specific information in your emergency response guides on:
- Fighting high-voltage lithium-ion battery fires.
- Mitigating thermal runaway and the risk of high-voltage lithium-ion battery reignition.
- Mitigating the risks associated with stranded energy in high-voltage lithium-ion batteries, both during the initial emergency response and before moving a damaged electric vehicle from the scene.
- Safely storing an electric vehicle that has a damaged high-voltage lithium-ion battery.
Thus far, EV manufacturers have responded as follows:
Response Summaries (Detailed Responses):
(MANUFACTURER, CASE STATUS, RESPONSE)
BMW North America LLC – Open – Acceptable Response
BYD Motors – Open – Acceptable Response
Stellantis (Formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobile US LLC) – Open – Acceptable Response
General Motors – Open – Acceptable Response
Ford Motor Company – Open – Acceptable Response
Gillig Corporation – Open – Acceptable Response
American Honda Motor Company, Inc. – Closed – Acceptable Action – 05/25/2022
Hyundai Motor America – Closed – Acceptable Action – 05/25/2022
Karma Automotive – Open – Await Response
Kia Motors America, Inc. – Open – Acceptable Response
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC – Open – Acceptable Response
Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. – Closed – Acceptable Action – 11/04/2021
Nissan Group of North America, Inc. – Open – Acceptable Response
Nova Bus Corporation – Open – Await Response
Porsche Cars North America, Inc. – Closed – Acceptable Action – 05/25/2022
Proterra, Inc. – Closed – Acceptable Action – 11/04/2021
Subaru of America, Inc. – Open – Acceptable Response – 11/10/2021
Tesla Motors – Open – Acceptable Response
Toyota Motor North America, Inc. – Open – Acceptable Response
Van Hool NV – Closed – Acceptable Action – 11/10/2021
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. – Closed – Acceptable Action – 05/25/2022
Volvo Cars of North America, Inc. – Closed – Acceptable Action – 11/10/2021
Electric vehicle accidents present a growing field within that of crash investigations; one we will monitor and continue to be involved with and grow our body of knowledge. Updates will be posted as significant developments occur.
BNI Operatives; Situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.