The aviation sector is experiencing unprecedented demand. With the exception of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it has seen a sustained increase in demand, which is anticipated to continue into the foreseeable future.
With rising pressure from governments around the world, the entire sector is searching for fresh, cutting-edge approaches to reduce carbon footprints and overall environmental impact. As a result, many organisations are switching to electric as an alternative, more environmentally-friendly fuel source for all ground support vehicles and equipment.
To achieve ambitious sustainability targets, airports are actively embracing electric alternatives to the conventional combustion engine vehicles and machinery operating on the ground, which enable continued air operations – whether that be for transfer buses, push-back tractors or refuellers, for example. Undoubtedly, this is having an effect on the environment as a whole, but it’s also creating new fire risks that can't be properly controlled by traditional fire detection and suppression methods.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries power the bulk of electric vehicles (EVs) and equipment used for ground support operations. Although EVs arguably have a lower fire risk than ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, EV fires can have much more severe consequences.
The four primary fire risks for li-ion batteries are as follows:
Each of these scenarios can cause the li-ion battery to internally short-circuit. This short-circuiting is one of the main influences for thermal runaway – a very dangerous state, where rapidly increasing battery temperatures can cause fire, toxic gas emissions (including carbon monoxide) or potentially even large explosions.
These rapid temperature increases are a crucial indicator that thermal runaway is already happening. At this point, it can be challenging to stop thermal runaway from advancing.
Li-ion batteries will release hazardous gases as a warning sign that they’re approaching thermal runaway, before temperature rise. With suitable detection and suppression methods, you may be able to detect thermal runaway at this stage – where its progression can frequently be prevented.
As traditional fire detection and suppression systems can often only detect thermal runaway by detecting quickly rising temperatures, there’s a clear need for a unique detection method. That is, one that can identify harmful gas emissions before temperatures rise.
Due to the value of nearby equipment and aircrafts, as well as the volume of passengers passing through the airport apron at any given moment, thermal runaway provides a significantly greater concern for airports.
Frequently, ground support equipment is in use close to aircrafts, airport personnel and travellers. As a result, any fire risk is increased, as it raises the potential harm to the surrounding environment, nearby residents and valuable assets. The impact of ground support equipment fires is widely reported.
Airports have a duty to safeguard their ground support machinery, whether it’s driven by combustion or electric engines, as well as a financial need to do so (due to downtime and the costs involved).
Understanding your specific risks is the first step in ensuring safety and avoiding unnecessary downtime. It’s important to take into account not only electrical equipment but all equipment and how it functions in a given context.
Understanding the various risks can help you to create a tailored fire prevention plan that successfully handles each one.
In relation to electrical equipment, you should also take into account:
Consider your whole operation, including how your vehicles and equipment function in context, in order to reduce the fire risks at your airport. Then, build a customised protection solution that effectively tackles the relevant risks, maximising safety and minimising downtime.
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Dafo was founded in 1919 and has developed into a modern, high-tech company committed to offer the very best solutions to its customers. Dafo was one of the first companies in the world which started to develop integrated firefighting solutions for vehicles back in 1976. Dafo Vehicle Fire Protection has three main business areas: Integration (Fire suppression systems integration into OEM production line, Retrofit (Fire suppression systems installed at final customer) as well as Service & Maintenance. The Dafo Vehicle group today consist of several subsidiaries and Dafo dealers – Dafo Vehicle Oy (Finland), Dafo US, Dafo Deutschland, Dafo Russia, Dafo Asia, Dafo Spain, Dafo UK & Ireland, Dafo Middle East, Dafo Chile, Dafo Brasil, Dafo Australia and Dafo Peru. The head office is located in Tyresö, Sweden.