Incidents of electric vehicles (EVs) catching fire after being submerged in salt water are not uncommon, a federal traffic safety authority has said.
“We are tracking the electric vehicle fires in Florida via news reports, fire department social media sites and other sources, and we can confirm that your experience in North Collier with the reignition is not an isolated event,” said writes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a letter to Jimmy Patronis, the chief financial officer of the Florida Department of Financial Services.
NHTSA made this statement in response to a letter of Patronis.
Patronis mentioned in its letter to the highway safety agency an incident in North Collier, Florida, where an electric vehicle ignited and continued to ignite after Hurricane Ian.
“I joined North Collier Fire Rescue to assess Hurricane Ian response activities and witnessed firsthand an electric vehicle continuously ignite and re-ignite as fire crews doused the vehicle of tens of thousands of gallons of water,” he wrote. “I was informed by the fire department that the vehicle reignited again when it was loaded onto the tow truck.
“I am very worried that we may have a ticking time bomb in our hands,” he added.
NHTSA said it first observed electric vehicle fires after a hurricane in October 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.
The fires, which are caused by the lithium-ion battery, can occur just after the vehicle has been submerged in salt water or “several weeks” after being submerged.
The highway safety agency also asked related parties to follow interim 2014 guidelines and not “store a severely damaged vehicle with a lithium-ion battery inside a structure or within 50 feet of any structure, vehicle or fuel”.
‘Tons’ of waterlogged electric vehicles catch fire
Patronis warned Oct. 6 of an increase in incidents of electric vehicle batteries corroding after Hurricane Ian.
“There are a ton of EVs disabled by Ian. As these batteries corrode, fires break out. This is a new challenge that our firefighters have never faced before,” Patronis said. “At least on this kind of scale.”
Patronis shared a video alongside the tweet showing firefighters from North Collier Fire Rescue (NCFR) attempting to put out smoke from an electric vehicle in the middle of a busy road.
There are a ton of EVs disabled by Ian. As these batteries corrode, fires break out. This is a new challenge that our firefighters have never faced before. At least on this kind of scale. #HurricaneIan pic.twitter.com/WsErgA6evO
—Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) October 6, 2022
A woman can be heard saying that firefighters have already doused the vehicle with 1,500 gallons of water but the smoke lingers. “It shows how dangerous these fires are,” the woman said, adding that firefighters will now continue to “drown” the vehicle with water until it cools.
Another man can be heard in the video saying the vehicle will likely continue to emit smoke “for days.”
Katabella Roberts contributed to the report.