Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on January 1, 2020.

Research Powered

Addressing stranded energy starts with learning more about it. Actually, a lot more. 


More research is being conducted on issues related to stranded energy, including three major projects nearing completion.

Sometime this spring or summer, the US National Transportation Safety Board says it will issue a series of recommendations related to emergency response to EV crashes, “the first major report addressing the issue,” according to NTSB spokesman Christopher O’Neil. The report is based on multiple comprehensive investigations NTSB has conducted into EV battery fires and the problems encountered by responders. O’Neil and the investigators working on the project declined to comment on the project or its potential findings, saying only that “our investigators generally do not discuss their analysis or findings until reports are completed.”

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) is also nearing completion of a wide-ranging effort to better define the scope of the stranded energy problem so that it can outline a roadmap for future research projects intended to develop tools and tactics for responders. Victoria Hutchison, an FPRF research project manager who is leading the effort, said that so few studies currently exist on stranded energy that she abandoned the idea of a literature review and is instead gathering information through interviews with researchers, battery disposal companies, repair-shop owners, battery manufacturers, first responders, and others.

“We’re just trying to get a variety of perspectives to identify the scope of this problem, where and when battery reignitions have occurred, and some of the strategies and approaches people are taking to deal with stranded energy,” she said. “So far, I’m finding that almost everyone’s approach is based on a best practice they heard from someone else. Others are just using their best guesses at this point.”

The Foundation’s stranded energy paper should be published sometime this January, Hutchison said. It will be available to read online at

In addition, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a vehicle standards organization comprised of automakers, auto suppliers, government officials, and technical experts, is working on a stranded energy technical information report, which it hopes to release this year.

Several years ago, SAE formed a stranded energy committee that would create a design standard for automakers intended to reduce the problems associated with stranded energy in vehicles. “We worked for a while, but we couldn’t form any consensus in the group that would allow a standard to be developed,” said Don Karner, chair of the SAE’s committee on stranded energy. “We decided that the best thing to do at that point would be to step back and issue a technical information report that defines what the issues are. As much as anything, this report is a bit of a scope document for what the standard ultimately needs to address.”

Like the FPRF project, the SAE report will detail concerns that stakeholder groups—fire protection professionals, first responders, auto repair facilities, tow truck operators, and others—have with stranded energy. The report will likely lead to renewed efforts by SAE to create a design standard, Karner said. The goal of the document would be “to achieve a minimum performance level in batteries that addresses the issues with stranded energy found in the report,” Karner added. “In an ideal world, that would then be complemented by folks like NFPA, who would come out with recommended practices for responders in the field.

JESSE ROMAN is associate editor of NFPA Journal. Top photograph: Fremont (CA) Fire Department