It may seem counterintuitive, but electric cars flooded with salt water can catch fire. This proved to be a problem in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which inundated parts of the state last month.
Now, Florida officials are searching for answers. This week, US Senator Rick Scott wrote about the issue to the Department of Transportation and electric vehicle makers. In a letter to Transportation Minister Pete Buttigieg, Scott Books:
In addition to the damage caused by the storm itself, saltwater flooding in many coastal areas had other devastating consequences in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian by causing lithium-ion batteries in flooded electric vehicles (EVs) to spontaneously burn and catch fire. This emerging threat has forced local fire departments to divert resources away from hurricane recovery to control and contain these dangerous fires. Auto fires from electric vehicles have proven to be very dangerous and last a long time, in many cases taking up to six hours to burn out. Alarmingly, even after car fires are extinguished, they can catch fire in an instant. Unfortunately, some Florida homes that survived Hurricane Ian are now lost to fires caused by flooded electric vehicles.
Scott Buttigieg asked about the guidance his department has given — or has asked electric car makers to provide — for consumers, as well as protocols developed for the automakers themselves.
Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer and state fire chief, also had a say in the case. last week, wrote for Jack Danielson, Executive Director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, asks for “immediate guidance” and noted, “In my experience, southwest Florida has a large number of electric vehicles in use, and if you leave those electric vehicles behind, they get in the way of storm surges.” When sitting in garages, there is a risk of fires.”
He noted that based on his research, “a lot of guidance on submerged vehicles does not address specific risks associated with exposure of electric vehicles to salt water.” He added that earlier this month, “I joined North Collier Fire Rescue…and saw with my own eyes an electric car that was constantly burning, constantly burning, as firefighters flooded the car with tens of thousands of gallons of water.”
he is too warned that “Electric cars may be a time bomb.”
on me TwitterPatronis shared a video of firefighters trying to put out a fire Tesla. He wrote in a tweet, “There are a lot of malfunctioning electric vehicles from Ian. When those batteries corrode, fires start. This is a new challenge firefighters have not faced before. At least on this kind of scale.”
In response to Patronis, Danielson Books:
Test results for salt water immersion show that salt bridges can form inside the battery pack and provide a path for short circuiting and self-heating. This could lead to a fire. As with other forms of battery degradation, the time period for this transition from self-heating to combustion can vary greatly.
It may be helpful for people not involved in immediate rescue missions to identify and move flooded vehicles with lithium-ion batteries at least 50 feet away from any combustible structures, vehicles, or materials.
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