As Florida officers and residents proceed to scrub up and assess the injury attributable to Hurricane Ian, they’re discovering the storm has turned some electrical autos into incendiary gadgets on roads, parking heaps and even on the backs of tow vehicles.
Electrical autos that had been flooded and broken by the storm have been catching fireplace with out warning in incidents all through the toughest hit areas within the state, based on State Fireplace Marshal Jimmy Patronis, who informed ABC Information his crew has counted no less than 9 such incidents. In some circumstances, the EVs would burst into flames, keep on fireplace, then reignite hours later.
The Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration (NHTSA) has warned that EVs can ignite weeks after contact with saltwater.
As storms improve in ferocity, and the sale of EVs will increase worldwide, it is a phenomenon we’re prone to see rather more of says Eric Fredrickson of Call2Recycle, a non-profit which focuses on transporting lithium-ion batteries to recycling services.
“A part of what we’re coping with proper now could be that that is the primary main storm that we have had in an space the place we’ve a excessive penetration of electrical autos. So we’re seeing these fires in these incidents greater than we’ve with any of the opposite storms,” he stated.
It is also a problem for firefighters who’ve to make use of between 8,000 to 12,000 gallons of water to place out the fires, greater than 10 occasions as a lot as a gasoline engine-based automobile, based on James Hammond, the assistant chief of operations at North Collier Fireplace Management & Rescue District.
“It is only a fixed move attempting to chill them down and cease the battery,” Hammond informed ABC Information.
Hammond stated his groups would usually spend an hour placing out a standard gas-powered automobile, however have spent 5 – 6 hours dousing electrical autos.
Saltwater flooding is the principle issue behind these fires, based on the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration. The flooding creates a sequence response within the engine and the batteries that made the components extra prone to catch on fireplace, the company stated.
The most important issues, based on firefighters and security specialists, is that it’s nonetheless unknown what might spark the blaze within the first place. One thing so simple as turning the wheel following the saltwater injury might begin the fireplace within the automobile, specialists stated.
The difficulty has gotten so unhealthy that some tow truck drivers in Florida have refused to choose up flood-damaged EVs. Tim Baker, a tow truck driver, informed ABC Information that one automobile he picked up caught on fireplace after he introduced it to his lot.
“They’ve the potential to catch fireplace just about any time,” he informed ABC Information.
NHTSA responded to a request by Florida state fireplace marshal Jimmy Patronis, who requested for steering on the issue stating, “Lithium-ion automobile battery fires have been noticed each quickly igniting and igniting a number of weeks after battery injury occurred. Timing of the fireplace initiation is restricted to the battery design, chemistry and injury to the battery pack.”
The company recommends that flooded EVs be parked no less than 50 ft from any constructions, autos or combustibles.
“All the time assume the battery and related elements are energized and absolutely charged,” the NHTSA stated in its letter to the state.
Patronis additionally referred to as on automakers to work with the state to give you options and procedures when coping with the flooded EVs.
“As [EVs] develop in recognition, this can be a potential menace that we will must cope with,” he informed ABC Information. “I need to create options that work, different than simply offering water to attempt to management the temperature of a battery that’s burning uncontrolled.”
One resolution is schooling, based on Fredrickson.
“We’re undoubtedly going to see extra vehicles flooded by saltwater if we do not take steps to coach customers concerning the penalties and the dangers of an electrical automobile that will get flooded by saltwater,” he stated.
Fredrickson stated the only manner of avoiding an EV automobile fireplace is shifting the automobile away from a possible flood space earlier than a significant storm, and if a automobile is submerged in salt water unplugging it from the wall earlier than energy is restored might be key to stopping it from bursting into flames.
That is a priority going ahead, based on Bobby Schneider of the Power Safety Company, an organization contracted to assist mitigate EV automobile fires.
He stated there might nonetheless be tons of of EVs saved in folks’s garages in Florida that would flip into potential fireplace hazards as soon as energy is returned to the grid.
Schneider stated that with the elevated use of EVs, 1000’s of fireplace departments and first responders throughout the nation should be educated in “the distinctiveness and particulars of the hybrid and electrical autos.”
ABC Information’ Timmy Truong contributed to this report.
This report was featured within the Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, episode of “Start Here,” ABC Information’ each day information podcast.