Other professional profiles participated in the second session of the APICI Workshop on the risks of lithium-ion batteries. All of them contributed their knowledge and experience before an audience that filled the room capacity located at Fundación MAPFRE.
The second session, titled “Preventing risk in parking lots and transportation” was moderated by Fernando Vigara, Vice President of APICI, and the first to intervene was our expert engineer at MAPFRE Global Risks, Maite Queralt.
“Batteries are a very good thing, but there are risks from a prevention and insurance standpoint.” The main risk is fire, primarily from cell-to-cell separation that does not prevent thermal runaway from the fire. She lists the different phases that have been covered in the previous article:
- Phase 1: Release of toxic gases.
- Phase 2: Heat release.
- Phase 3: Due to combustible materials, it results in the cells being heated, and therefore, combustion of the battery.
But what causes battery failure? The reality is that they are very varied and numerous: from the design, the absence of approved material, whether there has been battery handling or any impact, to the aging, charges, rapid or weather conditions of the storage location.
Precisely, the role of insurers is not inconsequential. What are the considerations for securing vehicles that contain lithium-ion batteries?
- Manufacture of the lithium-ion battery.
- Application and uses given/Repair workshops.
- Storage of lithium-ion batteries. Below 50% of battery, the risk of fire is reduced. If not connected, it would be difficult to identify the source of the fire.
Despite knowing these aspects, they face problems such as the diversity of uses made by the insured and under what conditions, the storage capacity of the energy itself and, of course, the lack of regulations or standards. In this regard, as also mentioned in previous lectures, a great difficulty is the control and extinguishing of fires and the scarce protocols of action. Therefore, insurance companies may resort to limiting the insured sum or coverages and/or the inclusion of a deductible. “Depending on the use of the batteries, different security measures will be applied; that is, the insurer will study on a case-by-case basis.”
Mónica Angulo, from Iberdrola
This was framed in a presentation titled “Rollout of the recharging network and charging point security.” She made known what the installation of recharging points was like, mentioned the lack of existing regulations and opened an interesting debate with the audience in which she considered the possibility of human safety being put at risk by installing charging stations in spaces where the activity of the establishment that hosted said stations was not complementary. For example, installing recharging points in the vicinity of gas stations, as both facilities contain the risk of fire and, despite being located outdoors, would not be a safe area for people.
Javier Unanua, from ARUP
In his presentation, the ARUP expert, a company that provides professional engineering, design, planning, project management and consulting services, offered a series of data that illustrated the current situation. Of the electric vehicles that catch fire, 17% of said fires result from an unknown source. However, we do know that 16% of EV fires catch fire in the recharging process. What you can see is that there is another type of fire and in which case it is from the batteries. He set Norway as the example: “This country has a high percentage of electric vehicles, but out of 45 fires, only one resulted with the battery as a source.”
In his exhibition, he mentioned that comparisons of statistics between combustion vehicles versus electric vehicles should not be taken as absolute data since “the electric vehicle fleet is much newer, so you will have to see what happens in the future when the fleet ages. Today, vehicle fires are more common in conventional ones, but batteries’ years have to be taken into account, so they can’t be compared with certainty.”
He also referred to the concept of “Fire Resistance” and proposed: “It needs to be updated because it becomes obsolete at the time EVs increase, as it is based on internal combustion vehicles.”
Aurelio Rojo, Honorary Chairman of APICI
“What happens when a fire occurs in a subway car?” This was how Aurelio Rojo started his presentation, in which he shared his experience installing nebulized water 23 years ago in the Madrid Metro. “The extinguishing method with nebulized water consists of expulsion in the car itself and also in the surroundings and its use can be executed from the subway users themselves.”
Increasingly, objects (computers, cell phones, speakers…) or electric vehicles (scooters, e-bikes) containing lithium-ion battery are introduced into cars and are therefore susceptible to fire. “There are some subways where scooter access has been banned, such as in Seville.”
Smoke is a major risk and this implementation showed that the onboard sprinkler systems contained the fires in the subways, and also did not reproduce again. Since 2003, the Madrid Metro has contained these systems and is an international benchmark. “This is a reference every day because different fires are controlled with this water.”
Isolina Martínez, Chairwoman of APICI: Conclusions
The chairwoman concluded the day by thanking the guests and participants and wanted to collect the most relevant aspects that were discussed. In her preamble, she acknowledged that the need for energy is growing, and the storage that is being sought, smaller and smaller, but with high capacity. “The new mobility models are going to continue there, and that’s why we have to adapt to the new circumstances.”
- Problem with the energy storage of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in all types of appliances.
- Causes of personal injury and property damage.
- Electric vehicles account for a significant percentage of fires and are concerned about extinguishment because they are difficult to suffocate due to their gases.
- Remaining energy is one of the problems.
- Firefighting teams must be trained and informed.
- The reasons for a battery fire.
- Battery manufacturers must increase manufacturing quality.
- Automobile manufacturers should exercise extreme caution as to where those batteries are located. As with other objects that include them.
- Fire extinguisher manufacturers, also committed to upgrading.
- And likewise, insurance companies.
Continue reading… APICI. “Understanding the Problem, Protection, and Intervention”