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Electric Vehicle Fires

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Electric Vehicle Fires: It Is Not A Matter Of If, But When

Joe Biden’s plan to convert 50 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet from internal combustion engines to electricity by 2050 to fight climate change ignores a serious danger in doing so.

Recent events around the world reveal that fire catastrophes from electric vehicles (EVs) are not only possible, but increasingly likely. The fire risk of the lithium-ion batteries that these EVs rely on for power is well documented, as they have been known to spontaneously combust in the most inopportune times and places.

Just this week, General Motors announced a second recall of Chevrolet Bolt EVs and EUVs manufactured from 2019 to 2021 model years in order to fix a defect in two of the lithium-ion battery modules that have led to fires. This follows on the heels of a previous recall of 69,000 older vehicles that will replace all five of the battery modules.

The GM announcement is just the latest in a string of recalls by EV manufacturers to attempt to fix defects that can lead to catastrophic fires related to lithium-ion batteries. Last year, Ford was forced to recall 20,000 hybrids, and soon thereafter, BMW recalled 26,700 vehicles due to battery defects that could lead to fires.

Internal combustion engine vehicles can also catch fire, but those tend to be during accidents or while driving, not sitting passively in a home or parking garage, as can occur with EVs. In addition, fire crews can extinguish gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle fire, but not so for EVs. EV fires are nearly impossible to extinguish with water and need to normally be allowed to just burn out, which may take many hours.

Last year, a California couple awoke to a blaring car alarm and a burning house. The blaze had started in one of the two Tesla S vehicles in their garage and spread to the other. “If we had lived upstairs in this house, we’d be dead,” said Yogi Vindum, a retired mechanical engineer. According to Mr. Vindum, “Gasoline driven cars don’t catch fire in the garage when they’re sitting there. And that’s the difference,” he said.

The culprit in nearly all EV fire cases is the lithium-ion batteries that power them, and which burn with extraordinary ferocity. Adding to the fire and heat danger posed by these events is the extreme toxicity of the fumes generated. According to one study, these fumes may in some circumstances be a larger threat, especially in confined environments where people are present

Battery fires are not limited to passenger cars. A fire at a bus depot housing electric vehicles in Hanover, Germany, caused millions of euros in damage. Five e-buses and four other vehicles were destroyed, along with the building and charging station. In China four electric buses went up in flames after one had ignited.

Large lithium batteries used as backup power supplies to wind turbines and solar panels have combusted as well. Fire crews took more than three days to extinguish a blaze at the 13-ton Tesla Big Battery in Victoria, Australia. Because ordinary fire suppression methods could not be used on the 300-megawatt power source, crews had to let the blaze burn itself out as authorities monitored air quality in the vicinity.

A true nightmare scenario is one in which an EV fire occurs in an underground parking garage beneath an apartment complex or a crowded office building. With the toxic fumes generated, how would the local fire department be able to respond to a fire that could not be extinguished even if they could get to it?

We should be forward-thinking in the prevention of a looming tragedy and consider doing what two towns in Bavaria did after the horrific German bus station inferno: completely ban all-electric vehicles from parking in underground garages. Electric vehicles may one day be safe enough to assume no fire risk in vulnerable garages, but that day has yet to arrive.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. But, but, EV’s are PERFECT; they save the environment (and the liddle fluffy animals) they are Climate Friendly, they are. etc. etc. etc. AND ST GRETA HAS ONE (Although DL appears to dislike utes – or is it farmers?)

    (And they also show that their drivers ‘Care’ and consider themselves SUPERIOR to everyone else;)

    What is there not to like?

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        • …I’d happily go back to Morse code & semaphore flags.

          C’mon, how will the Cybermen or The Borg assimilate humans if they are reduced to Morse Code and Semaphore Flags?

          Borg1: “I’m off to assimilate Captain Picard by downloading my Borg code into him, by semaphore”.

          Borg2: “Be careful, all previous Borgs have failed – its hard to make a human stand still for 127 years while we attempt to download using semaphore. And the last 428 Borg drones were lost because of the rapid arm flapping with flags which effectively were wings. Search your memory banks – don’t you remember the first Borg drone Icarus, from the Borg cube Daedalus? It’s flags were made of paper and wax. All the flapping caused him to fly too close to the sum and his flags/wings melted.”

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    • Sootz even the batts of the old skool battery power tools had some grunt i found out the hard way at school when i was about 10yrs old…
      Old mans a sparky and i made an awsome contraption that used a couple of old battery packs from the skip bin at his work, anyways turns out when you stash it in your desk at school hiding it from teacher theres a quite good chance a kids wiring skills aint the best 🙁 shorted out, small explosion and set my desk on fire… could no longer hide that from teacher!!! Tried grabbing it to toss it outside, melted a hole through my thumbnail singed my armhairs and lost my fringe. Teacher dragged the desk out door and whole school evacuated until fire brigade gave the all clear.

      Yes i got my arse kicked and grounded when i got home lol

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  2. So are we replacing internal combustion engines with external combustion engines? //

    But seriously, the price of progress for most some new technology, but not all, has a learning curve. There is bound to be confusion and mishaps with any new high potential technology. Part of that learning curve, is understanding how to make it as safe as possible.

    It is not a reason to abandon electricity, or electric cars, as a means of transportation, as battery technology is evolving.

    However I do not agree with electric vehicle subsidies, as this artificially skews the supply and demand curve, and shortcuts get taken. We only have to witness the artificially created demand for the vaccines and the rapidly increasing vaccine (real) deaths, not flu deaths relabeled over a fear marketing campaign called Covid-19.

    The artificial demand created by electric vehicle subsidies also puts pressure on electricity generation, which will result in shortages and potentially blackouts. At least you can still drive an internal combustion car during a power blackout.

    We should also not forget that petroleum and electricity generation had its own share of disasters at the outset.

    * The introduction of unleaded petrol in the 1990’s, required different additives to replace lead, causing “O” ring failures in older cars, which resulted in fuel leaks and fires.

    * Non electric cars still burst into flames or go “up in smoke”. Currently 1 out of every 8 fires in the US is a highway vehicle fire. Admittedly not all were caused by fuel combusting by itself however fuel leaks and electrical fires are not insignificant. https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=812639

    * The introduction of Edison’s DC electricity in the USA required coal-fired steam generators providing steam for steam engines driving direct current (DC) dynamos. Because the direct current could only be used over short distances, there was literally a coal furnace on every street corner. Fires were very common, and the cables laid just under the road top, would regularly electrocute horses, causing the horses to bolt, dragging the carriages and occupants at high speed, causing injury and in some cases death. It was the introduction of Tesla’s AC system that carried power from Niagara Falls to the cities that put an end to the coal furnaces and the fire risk.

    * There have been a number of nuclear power station disasters, and nuclear ship and submarine disasters, but with every accident comes lessons on how to make things safer and more reliable.

    * Even fires used to keep us warm have their risks, AKA the great fire of London and others.
    * Even timer has its risks, but that does not mean we should not plant trees. Balmoral forest fire was huge, but there had been many smaller fires prior to that.

    I’m sure that when cavemen discovered fire, there would have been a string of accidental fires. In Africa there are regular veld fires triggered by dry weather and lightening. Can you imagine the shock: An African tribesman, on a hot summer’s day, brings home a side of wildebeest for the evening meal, with a warthog to cook for breakfast bacon. He rubs his sticks together to light the fire, and the surrounding grass catches fire. He and his family abandon their food, and flee. And within a few days, the fire has covered an area the size of Auckland. Earlier this year there was a fire covering of 33,000 acres – larger that the size of Hamilton.

    We should not abandon electric cars, as all technology has its risks, and we must allow it to mature, while minimising the risks.

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  3. Theres a good reason why lithium batts are nicknamed “terrorist cells” theyre like a suicide bomber and you never know when theyre gunna go bang.

    A good mates father in aussie has just setup his house with solar and strapped a tesla powerwall to the side of his house… fark that id be mounting it on a pole down the back of the section or even better just use carbon or calcium batteries and avoid lithium ones.

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