Rescuers learning to extinguish electric vehicles as manufacturer recs vary

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

To date this year, Estonia's Rescue Board has extinguished 176 vehicle fires, two of which have involved electric vehicles (EVs). Rescuers have to learn how to extinguish EV fires as recommendations vary by manufacturer.

The Rescue Board has handled the stabilization of three different EV batteries this year. While a Tesla that ran into a tree didn't require any special treatment, the battery of another EV, a Nissan, took a couple of days to stabilize. A Jaguar that caught fire in Viimsi last week, meanwhile, is still sitting in water.

"We placed it in this container because the battery remained unstable," explained Ivar Frantsuzov, expert at the Rescue Board's Rescue Works Department. "In other words, we isolated it temperature-wise, because by cooling down the battery and depriving it of oxygen, we can prevent reignition."

Extinguishing EVs is a new challenge for the Rescue Board, and currently they are employing a simpler method, i.e. cooling. This is also the method recommended under first responder applications created by electric and hybrid vehicle manufacturers.

It takes 11-36 tons of water to cool down a Tesla, for example, however the manufacturer doesn't recommend immersion. Depending on charge level, stabilization of the battery can take 20-48 hours.

The Rescue Board hopes to hand the Jaguar to catch fire last week over to the factory sometime this week.

"We'll be trying to turn it over not to the client, but to the company sometime this week so that it can start investigating," Frantsuzov explained. "Their request was indeed to submerge it in water, and transferring it there has proven challenging for us."

The Jaguar in question was retrieved from Viimsi in a special container, but according to the official, that isn't always necessary. It's possible to extinguish EV fires the conventional way, but doing so requires more water.

Some charging stations located in parking garages are equipped with isolating fire blankets, however at least two people are needed to use them.

"Electric vehicles do not catch fire or burn faster," explained Marion Meius, a technical expert at If Insurance. "In reality, cars have high fire loads in general, and it doesn't matter what we're talking about — they all burn relatively intensely."

Meius added that it's typically not worth repairing cars that have been damaged in a fire.

Comprehensive insurance policies on electric vehicles are more expensive at If as their loss ratios are higher than those of gasoline-powered cars. These vehicles have a higher mass and greater acceleration performance with an above average frequency of claims.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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