So electric vehicles are going to save the planet, eh? Somebody forgot to tell Joe Biden something important when he authorized the spending of tens of billions of dollars for EV subsidies, more billions to build charging stations (still not enough), and still more billions to auto manufacturers to “incentivize” the design and building of more and more EV’s. That important bit of information is the fact that electric car fires are darn near impossible to put out.
That’s right. There’s going to be something close to 48 million EV’s on the road by 2030 (if the Biden administration statistics are right) and fire departments across the country don’t have a clue how to extinguish EV car fires.
Researchers say EV fires last longer, are harder to put out, and have a tendency to reignite. Not only do lithium-ion batteries contain extremely flammable chemicals, but when those chemicals burn, the toxic smoke can kill you.
“I think if we were faced with a similar scenario next time, we might need to let it burn,” said Franklin County (Tenn.) Fire Marshal Andy King after his crew doused a burning Nissan Leaf with 45,000 gallons of water.
Did no one mention this to Biden and the Democrats before they spent a couple of hundred billion dollars to build the darn things?
Unfortunately, there are 170,000 vehicle fires in the U.S. every year but the government doesn’t keep separate statistics on electric vehicle fires. Some independent studies show that EVs catch fire less frequently than gas-powered cars, but that’s not very helpful, considering that a non-electric car fire can simply be extinguished with water.
There is still a debate about the best way to put out an EV fire.
“When we look at how much money is going into battery plants, into the EV transition, there hasn’t been that carve-out to prepare the fire service,” said Michael O’Brian, fire chief of Michigan’s Brighton Area Fire Authority and chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ battery committee.
Some car manufacturers and their suppliers are trying to prevent EV fires with new technology. Audi has filed a patent application for a battery that can extinguish its own fire. Industrial conglomerate Honeywell and energy company Nexceris are creating early warning sensors for batteries, and 3M is working on materials meant to contain thermal runaway.
Numerous companies are also developing solid-state batteries, thought to be safer than their liquid-based cousins. Victoria Hutchison, a senior research project manager with the NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation, said those have been discussed for years but still aren’t being sold at scale.
The foundation is researching EV-firefighting techniques and aims to publish recommendations by the end of next year. For now, Hutchison said fire departments must weigh how much water and effort they can spare.
EVs release their own oxygen when they burn, meaning they can reignite hours or even days after the original fire has been doused. They also emit poisonous fumes that Tom Miller, who teaches for the West Virginia University Fire Service Extension and the National Volunteer Fire Council, said “make hydrogen cyanide look like Pez.”
We can be fairly certain that big and medium-sized cities will be able to keep up with all the latest techniques and products when it comes to fighting EV fires. But what about small towns with their volunteer fire departments? They might see one EV fire every two or three years. Training them up on how to fight an EV fire should be a priority for the Biden administration