Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

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What are the dangers of storing high voltage EV batteries at ATFs?

Ian M B Scott CEng CSci CPhys FInstP FIOSH, Volunteer Member, Fire Risk Management Group, at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), provides ATF Professional with his knowledge of EV battery storage and what are the potential dangers of storing them at premises that include ATFs?

 

What are the dangers of storing high voltage EV batteries at ATFs? f
Ian M B Scott

High voltage electric vehicle batteries are now being stored often on premises that include vehicle recycling facilities, prior to recovering valuable metals such as nickel, cobalt and silver. Recovery stops batteries from going to landfill, reducing waste and the need to mine new materials, cutting CO2 emissions and saving expensive resources.

There are no definitive health and safety rules and regulations for storing batteries, although general health and safety rules, supported by risk assessments, must apply.

Safety experts consider the risks from storing small quantities of individual low voltage portable batteries to be very low if sensible common-sense precautions are taken. But these precautions must be considered as part of a business’s health and safety risk assessment for normal operating conditions AND for abnormal events and emergency conditions such as the outbreak of fire, short circuit or an explosion.

However, the risk profile changes when high voltage batteries are stored, pending processing and safe dismantling to recover components. Why is this? Recent advances in electronics and technology have been accompanied by demands for enhanced battery performance, resulting in increased energy stored within the battery casing.

Quite simply, this new level of risk is due to the potentially high residual chemical energy levels remaining in what may have been considered as spent batteries. Residual power levels can still be sufficient give rise to ‘runaway’ internal chemical reactions which causes a fire that does not behave as you would expect. These fires can be very intense, and being chemical fires, they may burn for a considerable period of time, essentially in the presence of little oxygen.

Fire prevention

Fire prevention is paramount. Fundamental golden rules and precautions for high-voltage battery handing are in common with working with high-energy materials:  DO NOT unduly contaminate, confine or combust batteries, battery waste or packaging or extracted/recovered materials. Training people on what to do in the event of a fire is vital for life safety and property protection and the precautions you need to take in the event of fire have to be precise and well-rehearsed beforehand.

To help you with these preparations, and to take sensible safety precautions, there is a safety checklist that you can download and is free to use.

Please remember

Your safety is paramount. Work safely: be fit for work; always receive a briefing; report any incidents promptly to the supervisor or manager; and stop work if anything you planned to do changes. Stay safe!

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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.