Tech

How do you extinguish burning batteries and electric cars? That’s what the fire department says!






If the smartphone battery smokes or an electric car catches fire: what should you do? How do you put out the fire? We asked two experts from the Munich fire department.

In July 2020, there was a fatal accident with an electric car in Groß Kreutz near Potsdam. The e-vehicle hit a tree and burned out. The 19-year-old driver died in the car.

Despite this tragic accident with the fire of an electric car, experts from the fire service repeatedly emphasize: electric cars are no more dangerous than cars with internal combustion engines and electric cars do not burn faster / easier than vehicles with internal combustion engines. We asked the Munich fire brigade: What should owners of electric cars watch out for if they notice a fire in their vehicle? How do you extinguish a burning smartphone or e-scooter battery – for example, as in this case? How should you store batteries? Why do batteries burn at all?

Felix Menzinger (left) and Christian Emrich (right)

Enlarge

Felix Menzinger (left) and Christian Emrich (right)

© Menzinger / Emrich

The answers come from Christian Emrich, head of the “Li-ion storage media” working group of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Berufsfeuerwehren (AGBF) and the German Fire Brigade Association (DFV), as well as from Felix Menzinger, M.Eng., Chief Fire Inspector at the District Administration Department of the City of Munich. Both experts are referred to in the article as the “Munich Fire Brigade”.

PC WORLD:

Is an old, probably completely discharged battery from a smartphone or notebook that has not been switched on for years still a source of danger? Should you remove the battery (as far as possible) if you want to keep the device in the long term, for example in a museum or as a souvenir?

Fire Brigade Munich:

A deeply discharged Li-ion battery may start to react when attempting to recharge. However, this statement cannot be generalized, as the rechargeable batteries can be constructed differently and chemically composed differently, and the quality of the rechargeable batteries can differ greatly. Furthermore, the quality of the charger also plays a decisive role here (eg original charger or “purchased part”?) And the fact whether a battery is already “damaged”. In this regard, particular reference is made to the respective operating instructions or instructions from the manufacturer.

Removing batteries that are no longer required from devices that are no longer to be used may reduce the likelihood of a fire developing. It is particularly important to properly dispose of batteries that are no longer required (do not dispose of them with normal residual waste / household waste).

PC WORLD:

How big / high is the flame that arises when a battery burns, for example in an indoor surveillance camera or in a smartphone?

Fire Brigade Munich:

There is no general answer to this question, as the course of the fire in the batteries varies, for example, depending on the basic structure (pouch cell, cylindrical cell, prismatic cell), the chemical composition and the state of charge. In practice it can be determined that in almost all fire cases it is not just a reaction of the battery, but other furnishings can catch fire as a result of the reaction and the course of the fire of the then prevailing room fire “superimposes” the course of the fire in the battery.

PC WORLD:

How great is the fire hazard that lithium-ion batteries pose at home?

Fire Brigade Munich:

Basically, with good manufacturing standards, certified charging and cell monitoring systems and proper handling, lithium-ion storage media can be classified as sufficiently safe.

PC WORLD:

How should you store lithium-ion batteries at home?

Fire Brigade Munich:

Even when storing relatively small amounts of lithium-ion storage media that catches fire, the fire can spread very quickly. Burning parts can be thrown around due to the sometimes explosive burning. Therefore, when storing, special attention must be paid to the structural isolation between fire compartments or rooms with stored new and old batteries.

PC WORLD:

W.

Which circumstances lead to a battery fire in smart home devices and smartphones?

Munich fire brigade

: A battery can ignite for various reasons. Mechanical damage, for example if the smartphone battery falls on the floor, can lead to internal short circuits. Overcharging can lead to electrical wear damage (electrical load). And an increase in temperature (thermal load), for example as a result of a fire, can also lead to battery damage.

PC WORLD:

Is it really best to extinguish a burning lithium-ion battery with water? In concrete terms: if a smartphone is on the floor, do you pour a bucket of water over it? Or can you smother the fire with a pillow / blanket? Can you use a powder or foam fire extinguisher?

Fire Brigade Munich:

The extinguishing agent of choice is water. Burning small batteries or rechargeable batteries should therefore be extinguished with water for as long as possible. After the end of the fire, they are to be stored in a container under water until they are handed over to a qualified waste disposal company.

Suffocating with pillows, sand, CO2 or other extinguishing agents does not work because the chemical processes have to be cooled. The oxygen that the combustion process needs is already chemically bound in the cells. Therefore “covering / suffocating” the source of the fire does not help.

The fire brigade monitors the lithium-ion battery after it has been extinguished, for example with thermal imaging cameras. Since backfire cannot be ruled out, the battery should be moved to a safe place.

Important:

A fire in a lithium-ion battery can produce carcinogenic hydrocarbons, hydrofluoric acid and heavy metal deposits. So avoid contact and do not inhale the gases.

Regarding operational questions in the household, the recommendation is the same as with any technical device: The operating instructions and instructions of the manufacturer must be observed, because every “battery” is built slightly differently. Basically, the quality is the main factor for safety. This starts with the production up to the charger in everyday life.

In principle, users should always call the fire brigade via “112” first when smoke develops and then take fire-fighting measures with water or water or foam fire extinguishers. But only as long as they do not endanger themselves!

When the electric car burns …

PC WORLD:

When an e-car is on fire – as a driver, can you extinguish anything yourself? Actually, you can only flee and call 112, right?

Fire Brigade Munich:

This question can only be answered in a differentiated manner. If there is an incipient fire within the engine compartment or the passenger compartment, extinguishing measures initiated with portable fire extinguishers may be successful. It must be mentioned here that the drive battery does not actually take part in the fire every time there is a fire in an electric car.

In principle, users should always call the fire brigade via “112” first when smoke develops and then take fire-fighting measures with water or water or foam fire extinguishers. But only as long as they do not endanger themselves!

PC WORLD:

Does an electric car burn more than a car with a combustion engine?

Fire Brigade Munich:

No. The dangers of certified electric vehicles are largely comparable to those of vehicles with other types of drive (fuel, gas). The fire performance is also comparable.

PC WORLD:

How does the fire brigade extinguish a burning electric car?

Fire Brigade Munich:

Electric cars are extinguished with water. If the fire has apparently been extinguished, the vehicle battery must continue to be monitored with a thermal imaging camera in order to be able to counteract reignition in good time.

The German Fire Brigade Association has published a recommendation on how to deal with burning lithium-ion batteries.

Burning electric car: this is how the fire department extinguishes

E-scooter causes apartment fire: 200,000 euros in damage, 10 injured

Cologne: Hoverboard involved in house fire

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button