When an electric car burns what then.

Butzbach – A little more than 365.000 electric vehicles had been registered by the end of March 2021. If you take, depending on the definition, the so-called "plug-in hybrid" vehicles with currently about 349.000 passenger cars are included in the statistics, there are just under three quarters of a million vehicles with electric motors on German roads. The approvals are growing steadily. (Source: Statista GmbH, provider of market and consumer data)

But it's these cars that can pose a challenge to firefighters when they catch fire. Lithium-ion batteries consist of a large number of individual cells. Faulty charging, damage or exposure to heat, such as in a fire event, can cause an increased exothermic reaction in these cells. This leads to overheating. Destruction of the energy storage system. Due to the compact composite structure, this process continues independently, even under exclusion of air. This unstoppable chain reaction is called "thermal runaway". The conventional extinguishing attack with jet or foam pipes is often not sufficient for a lasting extinguishing effect. Burning batteries or batteries at risk of re-ignition should be adequately cooled for up to 72 hours. In practice, this can only be done to a limited extent or with great effort by the fire department, especially on busy traffic routes or in large garages. A remedy is provided by a container that holds the extinguished vehicle and can then be flooded with water to cool the installed energy storage system for the required period of time.

When an electric car burns what then.
When an electric car burns what then.

The company Kran Burgard from Butzbach has recently acquired such a container. The "Red-Maxx" of the company Ellermann Eurocon GmbH is a roll-off container, which can be transported flexibly to the place of action. A crane of the company lifts the extinguished vehicle into the "Red-Maxx" at the site of operation. Takes both to a special quarantine place on the company premises. Alternatively, the car can also be pulled into the container via the openable tailgate using the mechanical towing device installed in the "Red-Maxx". The container is flooded with water at the quarantine site. Thus safely avoided another fire. For the phase before and during transport, the risk of fire and smoke spreading can be effectively reduced by a large-format "extinguishing" blanket specially provided by the Butzbach fire department for car fires.

Two important highways pass Butzbach and thus belong to the operational area of the fire department of the city of Butzbach – the BAB 5 and the BAB 45. In addition, there are several kilometers of federal and state highways. It is obvious that the cooperation of the salvage company and the fire department is close in traffic accidents. The processes proceed routinely on both sides. Teamwork and mutual understanding of responsibilities works well.

Butzbach firefighters as well as other firefighters from the Wetterau district accepted the invitation of the Kran Burgard company to a demonstration with the AB-HV (Abrollbehälter Hochvolt) "Red-Maxx". Here the exact procedures were tested and observed. The roll-off container has a total length of 6.40 meters, a height of 1.23 meters and a capacity of 14 tons.000 liters. A crashed car was prepared. The roll-off container brought into position directly in front of the vehicle. After opening the flap of the container, the winch, which has a mass of up to 5.400 kilograms, attached to the towing eye of the crashed vehicle. The car was quickly pulled into the container. The Butzbach TLF 4000 tank fire engine supplied the water for filling the roll-off container. Two B-hoses flooded the container within a few minutes. The accident vehicle was located after filling 5.000 liters already up to half in the water. Thus the desired cooling effect of the batteries, which are usually located in the vehicle floor, would probably already have been achieved. Depending on the size of the vehicle and the type of construction, more or less water may be required.

When an electric car burns what then.
When an electric car burns what then.

After the complete cooling process, at the latest after 72 hours, the water can be pumped out of the roll-off container again. Since it is now contaminated with pollutants from the damaged vehicle, the water must be disposed of separately as a hazardous material. "There are still some open questions here," says Managing Director Andreas Burgard. Crane Burgard is always looking for new methods of recovery. Also contributes with its equipment a part to the operational success of the fire department. In this particular case, Kran Burgard is the first salvage company in the county to have the ability to remove damaged electrical and electronic equipment. Adequately recovering hybrid vehicles. With the high-voltage roll-off container, the experts ensure safety against further damage to material and the environment even after recovery at the accident site.

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