The idea of submerging a burning vehicle into a giant bathtub might seem odd at first, but it’s a real solution proposed by German company Ellermann Eurocon. Okay, it’s not a bathtub in literal terms. It’s a container, called Red Boxx, that submerges the battery of a fire-ravaged car to cool it down and potentially eliminate the risk of fire reignition.
It’s possible for lithium-ion batteries to short-circuit and catch fire. This might happen due to cell damage, overcharge, or excessive heat among many other reasons.
There have been such cases in North America in the recent past where Teslas and Chevy Bolt EVs have gone up in flames. Even though fire extinguishers can douse these flames, the risk of reignition might persist due to thermal runaway – a phenomenon where battery cells burn uncontrollably in a chain reaction.
Ellermann Eurocon’s patented high-voltage container is mobile. As per the label attached to the Red Boxx, it's a 23-square-meter container weighing 3,530 kilograms (7,782 pounds). It can be mounted on a semi-truck and transported to the location of the fire.
To bring it into action, it is positioned in front of the damaged car, following which its tailgate is opened to let the car in. Its operators use a winch and specially developed rescue nets made of plastic belts and steel cables to pull the vehicle inside. The water, transported in a separate container, is then sprinkled into the Red Boxx, said CEO Tobias Ellermann in the video below.
Lastly, the wastewater used to cool the vehicle gets pumped in a “controlled manner into a dangerous goods container,” as per the company’s website.
Ellermann also mentioned that firefighters and first responders approached the company for a solution to uncontrollable vehicle fires, which they found hard to extinguish. The watertight Red Boxx was their answer to this problem.
However, it's unclear how this apparent solution doesn’t exacerbate the problem, as lithium-ion batteries might react violently upon water seepage.
That said, it is possible that these containers might be more useful for hybrids and ICE cars. National Transport Safety Board’s 2022 study revealed that hybrid and gas cars were more fire-prone compared to all-electric cars.
Moreover, with constant improvements in battery technology and engineering, the rate of fires among EVs appears to be reducing – Tesla vehicle fire data revealed that there are just five fires involving Teslas for every one billion miles traveled.
Do you think this German solution for extinguishing vehicle fires would work well in the US? Leave your thoughts in the comments.