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Car-makers given life-saving advice

Belgium – New mobility concepts are redefining the composition of vehicles – but not always for the better, claimed Kurt Vollmacher at the 14th International Automobile Recycling Congress staged recently in Brussels.

The new technology specialist at Belgium’s Federal Centre of Expertise for Civil Protection (CTIF) began by stating: ‘I am thankful for innovation.’ That said, he added, ‘fire-fighters need to have the specs of a new car so, when an accident happens, they can liberate the people as quickly and safely as possible. Some tools used for older vehicles cannot get through any more because automotive metals are tougher nowadays. This leaves people trapped, extremely trapped.’

Dealing with a crashed electric vehicle also presents problems given the difficulty of accessing the battery pack to extinguish a fire. ‘Also, we cannot break open the battery due the electrocution danger,’ Vollmacher commented. In fact, the firemen have to keep the water running for ‘up to one hour’ in order to subdue the flames fully.

Crucial details

Ideally, CTIF and other similar services across Europe should collaborate with car manufacturers to ensure ‘proper action’ is taken. Vollmacher identified new cutting techniques for cars made of ultra-strength steel as a good place to start. ‘We could either conduct emergency tests together, serving as consultants, or car-makers could individually include this step upon launching a new model – as long as we have the crucial details we need to save lives,’ he insisted.

Moreover, technical data would benefit from international standardisation. A clear indication of the power source is a must, for example. ‘Is it a high-voltage super-capacitor or a diesel hybrid electric vehicle? There is no way to recognise this from a distance,’ Vollmacher pointed out.

Consideration of situations ‘where things can go wrong’ would make all the difference, it was suggested. ‘Together we must be proactive,’ he said. ‘We can’t wait until it’s too late.’ Following this statement, several of the car-makers present at the IARC – including BMW and Volkswagen – expressed an interest in mutual pursuit of safety and innovation.

A detailed review of the IARC will appear in the April issue of Recycling International.

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