Rescue Board on EV fires: Lithium batteries burn rapidly

A Jaguar EV in an EV extinguishing container.
A Jaguar EV in an EV extinguishing container. Source: Rescue Board

Rescue Board operatives have had to put out electric vehicle fires on two occasions in the last week. While Estonian rescue services have the capacity to put out large battery pack fires, people are urged to keep in mind that lithium-ion batteries fires burn fast and hot.

Last week's incidents were the first EV fires in Estonia, Ivar Frantsuzov, expert for the Rescue Board, told Vikerraadio on Monday. "Looking at the results, I would say we were prepared," he added.

There are smaller or bigger ordinary vehicle fires in Estonia every other day.

The recent EV to catch fire in Viimsi was a classic case of a battery fire," Frantsuzov said. "The car is still in the extinguishing container where we are keeping it stable."

"We have made preparations, been in touch with neighboring countries," Frantsuzov said. "We have procured vehicle fire blankets for early containment. Some are available near charging stations. The other thing is a watertight container where we can keep a battery stable if it cannot be cooled down."

The rescuer said that the main reason battery packs catch fire seems to be the charging process not allowing for a cooldown.

"Even an electric scooter battery burns fast should it catch fire while being charged indoors. A lithium battery catches fire in seconds, generating a lot of smoke. People should exit the room immediately and call for help, Frantsuzov said, adding that such fires are still quite rare.

He said that when charging electric bikes, one should make sure the battery is not mechanically damaged or wet.

The Rescue Board received a call last week of a smoking EV in Viimsi Municipality. When rescue workers arrived, the vehicle's battery, installed under the driver's seat, exploded and set fire to the interior.

To ensure safety and that the fire will be put out, the Jaguar EV was pulled into the extinguishing container and covered in water. This is an internationally recognized practice for putting out EV fires.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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