Electric vehicles often get criticized for supposedly catching fire more often than internal combustion vehicles. While there's no data to prove that—there's actually data to prove that EVs catch fire least often among road cars—EVs still get a bad rap for catching fire. That's likely thanks to the extreme nature of EV fires, as they tend to be incredibly difficult to extinguish. EV fires can even reignite long after they're initially put out. However, the solution to putting out stubborn EV battery fires might be far simpler than many of us thought—a blanket.
You can watch in the video below a team of firefighters using a massive fire-retardant blanket to completely smother an EV car fire. The idea is that the fire-retardant blanket robs the fire of oxygen, thus extinguishing it. And if you keep it on long enough, temperatures will stay down and it likely won't reignite.
The video comes from Centro Zaragoza, Spain, where a fire department tested a Bridgehill fire blanket, which is designed specifically for car fires. For the test, they torched a Nissan Leaf, whose fire eventually reached 1,976 degrees. At that point, they brought out the blanket and covered the car. In under 30 seconds, thermal imaging showed that the fire's temperature dropped to 676 degrees. After a few minutes, it dropped to 248 degrees.
At that point, they took the blanket off and the fire immediately reignited, just as big as it was prior to putting the blanket on, proving how tenacious battery fires can be. That re-ignition is caused by thermal runaway, which is when the lithium-ion cells enter an uncontrollable state of self-heating. Once the fire began to get back up to temperature, they put the blanket back on.
Bridgehill suggests keeping the fire blanket on the EV for at least an hour but recommends keeping it on until the vehicle has been transported to a safe space.
It isn't only blankets, though. Recently, LG Chem announced that it would be developing its own fire-retardant plastics for use in its EV battery packs, to prevent, or at least delay, thermal runaway from causing such battery fires.
This proves that there are materials that can put out EV battery fires more efficiently than just water. Not only do fire blankets completely smother the fire but they can be deployed in only a handful of seconds, preventing the fire from getting out of hand in the first place. Plus, they can be carried anywhere, stored neatly in a trunk, and don't need a fire hydrant or water hookup.
These blankets can be added to every firetruck in every fire department in every country. Hopefully, if the solution to battery car fires is this simple, the stigma that EVs are more dangerous than internal combustion cars can finally be put to bed.