Electric Car on Fire? Don’t Call the Fire Department…

This may seem a little odd but apparently very few fire departments around the world are prepared for the eventuality of an electric car fire. Worse than that, though, most of them have not sorted out protocols for EVs after a crash

Now, some of you may be thinking: it’s a car on fire, chuck some water on it, and if you are one of them you are very wrong. EV fires require distinctly different strategies to douse the fire than petrol-powered vehicles.

So, if you have been reading Automology for more than a few weeks, you will know that EVs do have a habit of spontaneously combusting. Earlier this year, one of our fave-rave EVs, the Porsche Taycan, managed to self-immolate. They are especially memorable as each and every time an EV goes up in smoke, it seems to make headlines. The fact is, though, they are not that much more likely to catch fire than a normal fossil-fuel-powered car. In the US of A last year, there were a total of 171,500 car fires. Most of these were in gas-powered cars, but when a shiny new hi-tech EV goes up, we all notice. Even with a swath of safety features built in, like rapid discharge following a crash, fires still happen in EVs.

Which is why the fact that in most jurisdictions around the world, fire departments are not developing strategies to deal with burning EVs could be considered worrying. A burning petrol tank is a very different thing to a smouldering Li-ion battery. To start with, Li-ion fires are a lot hotter. How hot? Well, up to 2,800-degree Celsius and adding water or foam to this can easily cause the fire to flare up as the water is split by the temperature into flammable Oxygen and Hydrogen (H20, geddit?). There is also the risk of toxic fumes and, oh, of course, getting zapped by the very electric current that drives the car.

So if you see an EV on fire, best stay away from it.

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