A Review of Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles

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This article has been updated

Abstract

Over the last decade, the electric vehicle (EV) has significantly changed the car industry globally, driven by the fast development of Li-ion battery technology. However, the fire risk and hazard associated with this type of high-energy battery has become a major safety concern for EVs. This review focuses on the latest fire-safety issues of EVs related to thermal runaway and fire in Li-ion batteries. Thermal runaway or fire can occur as a result of extreme abuse conditions that may be the result of the faulty operation or traffic accidents. Failure of the battery may then be accompanied by the release of toxic gas, fire, jet flames, and explosion. This paper is devoted to reviewing the battery fire in battery EVs, hybrid EVs, and electric buses to provide a qualitative understanding of the fire risk and hazards associated with battery powered EVs. In addition, important battery fire characteristics involved in various EV fire scenarios, obtained through testing, are analysed. The tested peak heat release rate (PHHR in MW) varies with the energy capacity of LIBs (\(E_{B}\) in Wh) crossing different scales as \(PHRR = 2E_{B}^{0.6}\). For the full-scale EV fire test, limited data have revealed that the heat release and hazard of an EV fire are comparable to that of a fossil-fuelled vehicle fire. Once the onboard battery involved in fire, there is a greater difficulty in suppressing EV fires, because the burning battery pack inside is inaccessible to externally applied suppressant and can re-ignite without sufficient cooling. As a result, an excessive amount of suppression agent is needed to cool the battery, extinguish the fire, and prevent reignition. By addressing these concerns, this review aims to aid researchers and industries working with batteries, EVs and fire safety engineering, to encourage active research collaborations, and attract future research and development on improving the overall safety of future EVs. Only then will society achieve the same comfort level for EVs as they have for conventional vehicles.

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Change history

  • 03 February 2020

    The original version of this article unfortunately contained an incorrect unit of <Emphasis Type="Italic">PHRR</Emphasis> for Eq. (3), which appears in abstract and conclusion, and an incorrect version of Fig. 23.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Other important parameters for fire hazard include toxicity, smoke production, risk of explosion, etc.

Abbreviations

\(A_{EV}\) :

EV floor area (m2)

\(A_{f}\) :

Area of fuel or fire (m2)

\(\Delta H_{c}\) :

Heat of combustion (MJ/kg)

\(\dot{m}\) :

Burning rate (kg/s)

\(\dot{m}^{''}\) :

Burning flux (kg/m2s)

\(\dot{q}^{''}\) :

Heat flux (kW/m2)

Q :

Heat release from fire (J)

T :

Temperature (°C)

V :

Voltage (V)

\(\eta\) :

Combustion efficiency (%)

BEV:

Battery electric vehicle

EV:

Electric vehicle

HRR:

Heat release rate (W)

ICEV:

Internal combustion engine vehicle

LIB:

Lithium-ion battery

NCA:

Nickel, cobalt, and aluminium oxide

NEDC:

New European driving cycle

NMC:

Nickel, manganese, and cobalt

PHRR:

Peak heat release rate (W)

PHEV:

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle

SOC:

State of charge (%)

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Acknowledgements

The authors (PS and XH) would like to thank the support from HK Research Grant Council through the Early Career Scheme (25205519) and HK PolyU through the Central Research Grant (G-YBZ1). RB was funded by the Strategic vehicle research and innovation program FFI through the Swedish Energy Agency (No. 2017-014026). HN is supported by the Guangdong Technology Fund (2015B010118001).

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Sun, P., Bisschop, R., Niu, H. et al. A Review of Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles. Fire Technol 56, 1361–1410 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10694-019-00944-3

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Keywords

  • Li-ion battery
  • Electric vehicle
  • Fire incidents
  • Fire tests
  • Heat release rate
  • Fire suppression