(UnitedVoice.com) – Lithium-ion battery fires are on the rise as electric vehicles (EVs) gain popularity. Putting the blazes out can be challenging for firefighters, and experts have expressed concerns about it. Recently, some of the EV batteries caught fire and shut down a General Motors (GM) plant in Michigan.
On December 19, a fire started at the GM Factory Zero plant in Detroit. The blaze was a three-alarm fire, which means three times the amount of firefighters and trucks responded to it than they ordinarily would. Sixty firefighters and 18 trucks responded to the call. A large part of the 4.5-million-square-foot factory filled with heavy smoke, resulting in a complete evacuation.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Tara Kuhnen, a spokeswoman for GM, revealed the fire began when a “forklift accidentally punctured a container with battery materials, causing the fire.” It started on the shipping docks, and a number of other batteries went up in flames.
Fortunately, there were no injuries or deaths reported in the fire, according to Detroit Fire Chief James Harris. He said the fire department was carrying out an investigation into the blaze.
By 6 a.m. the next morning, the workers were able to clock in for their normal shifts. Kuhnen said most of the departments at the plant were up and running again, including the vehicle assembly line.
Lithium-ion battery fires are presenting a new problem for firefighters around the country. The batteries can be unpredictable and can lead to “thermal runaway.” The National Fire Protection Association’s senior manager of training and education, Andrew Klock, told CBS News that “thermal runaway” happens when one cell’s heat ignites the next cell and so on. Some lithium-ion batteries for vehicles have between 5,000 and 9,000 cells. Klock described it as lighting a single match in a matchbox, and before you know it, the entire box is on fire.
Though the fires are on the rise, they are still considered rare events.
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