lithium-ion battery fires

Former firefighter reveals terrifying truths of lithium-ion battery fires

A former firefighter has raised serious concerns about how emergency crews deal with lithium-ion battery fires.

This came out in an interview with the firefighter after an electric bus set alight in Wimbledon on Thursday, Neil Pederson has warned of a tsunami of similar fires in the future.

Enormous amounts of water are needed and this type of lithium-ion battery fires are currently difficult to put out quickly.

He set up Fire Containers Ltd in 2019 which is looking to develop the world’s first Electric Vehicle Containment Unit.

How are lithium-ion battery fires put out?

Neil told Metro: ‘There could be a tsunami of electric vehicle fires if action is not taken soon.’

‘This is because they are basically chemical fires that spread from cell to cell and create a domino effect where water is useless against a blaze.’

‘Firefighters have to use 10 to 15 times more water to tackle an EV fire over a petrol or diesel vehicle because of hazardous flammable toxic gases it gives off from the lithium batteries.’

‘Water is useless against these toxic gases and turns to steam.’

‘What’s more, lithium batteries are on the bottom of electric vehicles and are hard for firefighters to tackle so this is where the EVCU comes in handy.’

The only fire services in the UK that use the EVCUs are Staffordshire and West Midlands.

With 20 million electric vehicles expected on the UK’s roads by 2032, up from 1.2 million in 2023, this poses a problem for fire services up and down the country.

The sale of electric vehicles outstripped diesel and petrol car sales last year, which Neil says will equate to more fires on the UK’s roads.

What could have caused the electric London bus fire?

Addressing Thursday’s fire in London, Neil said: ‘It’s most likely that today’s electric vehicle bus fire in London was caused by an electrical fault and may not be linked to the lithium-ion batteries if the fire started at the back of the bus.

‘This is because lithium batteries on electric buses are on the top of the front of the bus rather than the back.’

‘But as the sale of electric vehicles continues to increase, fires like these are only going to become more common.’

‘On average it takes firefighters four hours to extinguish EV fires and this is because of their lithium batteries and on average costs £1million an hour each time traffic is held up because of a burning vehicle.’

Have electric bus fires happened before?

The Wimbledon bus fire is not the first time an EV fire has caused chaos in London after a Potters Bar bus depot fire in 2019.

And there are safety concerns about a new Edgware EV bus garage proposed in north London.

Neil added: ‘The problem is that millions of electric vehicles are due to be sold with lithium batteries.’

‘The way to prevent this is investment in new technologies to replace these highly flammable batteries.’

‘Right now toxic gases are highly dangerous to the health and safety of firefighters on the ground as well.’

‘These fires are virtually impossible to stop and until then we face an increase and likelihood of more.’

For a more in-depth look into lithium-ion battery fires, check out our complete overview on the topic HERE.