Based on motor power, which loosely translates to output (i.e. velocity and airflow) performance, the battery-powered fan market is categorized into <750 watts (750 W = 1 hp), 750-1000 watts, and greater than 1000 watts. So far, all battery-powered PPV fans on the market are in the 500-750-watt category, mainly due to the general limitations of battery technology and the (im)maturity of electronics design by the few manufacturers in the space.
This categorization signals that the market is maturing towards traditional fan categories, based upon fire department’s need for different performance outputs for different structure type, size, and ventilation tactic used. To attain the high air velocity and volume performance that those firefighters well trained in tactical ventilation have come to expect from gasoline and electric (AC) fans, motor power of greater than 1000 watts is required.
Surpassing the 1000-watt benchmark is what will signal the maturity of the battery fan within the fire service, finally giving firefighters the option to confidently “go cordless” for most structural ventilation operations. The greatest technical challenge of reaching, and surpassing, the 1000-watt benchmark is in the electronic hardware. It is a lot of power and ensuring a safe platform to handle this much power requires larger, and costlier, components.
As a firefighter this translates into more weight, larger dimensions, and much larger batteries to ensure enough runtimes at these higher power levels. Another challenge of attaining 1000 watts, or more, of motor power is battery design. Batteries can be dangerous at high discharge rates and a well-designed battery management system (BMS) requires engineering know-how that is in high demand amongst all industrial manufacturing sectors of the world, from tech to auto and defense—which simply does not exist at most manufacturers of fire and rescue equipment.
Lithium ion battery cells have cemented their position as the best option for lightweight energy density but do require significant safety features within the BMS design to ensure safe operation throughout the operating envelope of the equipment while running and charging. Any procurement specification of battery-powered equipment, whether fans or rescue tools or otherwise, must include detailed safety requirements – specifically referencing BMS design. The fire department leaves this out at their own risk. At the time of publishing, although there are rumors of research and development projects in various stages, only a couple battery-powered fans in production exceeds 1000 watts of motor power. This is an exciting milestone for the industry and will quickly become the old standard for leading fire departments worldwide.
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