An EV battery catching fire, due to manufacturing errors, have been damaged, or any other causes, looks like a spontaneous combustion, e.g., like in fuel consumption vehicles. However, the internal burning process within the battery is called a “thermal runaway” and is different from a normal burning process.
Unlike a fire in a fuel consuming vehicle where just one single reaction occurs, a fire in an EV battery comprises multiple steps. Essentially, an uncontrolled, cascading loop of violent chemical reactions releases a tremendous amount of energy and heat, and as the individual battery cells warm up, energy and heat drives through the rest of the battery in a kind of domino effect.
What makes this worse is the fact that, as the thermal runaway accelerates, the burning battery’s stored energy essentially creates its own fuel (oxides). It’s a chemical fire which doesn’t necessarily need oxygen, hereby making it far harder to extinguish than a petrol fire. With the oxides present in the battery cells, temperatures from approx. 180°C causes oxygen to be released in the battery, which reacts with cell components, in particular the electrolyte, which again leads to an exothermic reaction that cannot be stopped in practice, during which the battery burns.
The fires emit combustible and harmful gases such as hydrogen fluoride, and due to its internal thermal runaway, the fire will not burn out. A burning battery or an overheated battery in a parking environment, such as ferries, parking garages, underground parking, parking lots, tunnels etc. which might catch fire, provides a severe risk of human injury, and especially if the parking environment is a ferry, it provides a risk of the entire ship catching fire and thus resulting in a disaster.
The examined method of cooling batteries in thermal runaway via Brine fluid submersion seem to show a very sharp cooldown curve for the tested battery pack samples. Any ongoing thermal runaway should be halted and spread of the runaway effect to adjacent batteries avoided.
The diagram shows a cooling system for cooling the brine. The illustrated cooling system is one possible embodiment but it should be understood that the cooling system may be arranged differently.
The system comprises a closed circuit having a refrigerant such as NH3 (ammonia). The system is not limited to ammonia, it may use any freezing method like e.g. CO2.
Alternatively, the second flexible part may be coupled directly to the storage medium for delivering to the fire extinguishing medium without using the first stationary part. It is hereby achieved that the system can deliver fire extinguishing medium outside the area of the first stationary part.
The idea includes the option, that the tank can be disconnected from the cooling unit. This option makes it possible for the fire departments to be better equipped, in case of a “fire” in electrical cars.
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