The controlled explosion has been a staple of automotive safety for decades, but the supplier Bosch has found a new way to apply the fundamental technology behind airbag deployment to protect EV and hybrid drivers (and their rescuers) in the event of an accident.
Bosch calls this a pyrofuse, and it's pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an explosive device designed to break an electrical connection. Rather than using a small charge to inflate an airbag, it drives a wedge through the electrical connections between an EV or hybrid battery pack and its connected electronics, permanently cutting them off from their electrical supply.
While it won't do anything to prevent thermal runaway and other issues if the battery pack itself is compromised, it adds a layer of redundancy to the existing electronic "kill switches" already found in hybrid and electric vehicles, reducing the chances of short-circuit and fire often associated with collisions.
"Faced with the growing number of electric vehicles that could potentially be involved in collisions, such systems are absolutely essential if we are to fulfill our mission of helping and rescuing victims of road accidents as rapidly and safely as possible," said Karl-Heinz Knorr, vice-president of the German firefighters association, in Bosch's announcement.
As an added bonus, the system utilizes proven technology. Since the microchip and basic electrical architecture were lifted from existing airbag systems, there is extensive proof as to its reliability. Bosch's pyrofuse is already in use by manufacturers of both EV and hybrid vehicles, though the company did not elaborate on how prolific it has become.