Fire suppression systems for vehicles have been on the market for decades. Growth within the electric and hybrid-electric vehicle industry has, however, accelerated the demand for new fire suppression technologies.
“With the rapid introduction of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles in public transport, there are new challenges, because they present totally different risk scenarios,” says Anders Gulliksson of Dafo Vehicle Fire Protection, coordinator of the European Union-funded Li-IonFire (Automated e-vehicle Lithium Ion Battery Early Warning and Fire Suppression System) project.
“When the commonly used Li-ion batteries fail through short circuiting, overcharging, high temperatures, mechanical damage and overheating, this might cause thermal runaway and the release of a flammable electrolyte, which makes fire extinguishing very difficult. In addition to the dramatic fire scenario, with the rapid increase in heat, there are a lot of potentially toxic gases being emitted.”
The project partners, including Dafo Vehicle Fire Protection and RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, explored different techniques to detect potential battery failure as early as possible, and take immediate action to stop, or delay, a potentially hazardous situation.
“If a system is activated at this early stage, the battery can be ‘brought back’ to a safe state, without the fire developing further,” explains Gulliksson.
“Tests have also shown that even with a late deployment of the fire suppression system, there’s a possibility of delaying the battery reaching a critical state, meaning that the chance of safe evacuation is very high.
“Li-IonFire delivers to the market a product that didn’t exist until now: a system that can offer real protection against battery fires, using a new suppression agent, Forrex EV, which is specifically developed for these applications.”