Volunteer firefighters in rural Pennsylvania had to use 12,000 gallons of water over the course of two hours to put out a Tesla battery fire that rendered the Model S luxury car unrecognizable Tuesday.
The Morris Township Volunteer Fire Company said they were alerted to the fire on the west lane of Interstate 80, an hour north of Pittsburgh, around 11:00 a.m. Tuesday.
The company said, “To give you an idea of the severity, crews can typically put out a fully involved vehicle fire of approximately 500 gallons or less.”
They added that it wasn’t because of the car’s rims, no one would be able to tell it was a vehicle.
The statement said the excessive fire was due to the car’s lithium-ion battery. The press release read: “This vehicle burned so hot and for so long that without the rims you might not even know it was a vehicle.”
The company added: “Due to the lithium-ion battery in the vehicle, extinguishing this fire would require additional fuel trucks as the vehicle would continue to reignite and burn intensely at times. In all, it took crews nearly two hours to continuously apply water to the vehicle as the battery reignited and sustained high temperatures.’
Tesla vehicles have been recalled over the past 12 months for a variety of reasons, but not battery issues.
The fire happened around 11 a.m. Tuesday along Interstate 80, an hour north of Pittsburgh
A family of three and their dog Coco narrowly escaped their lives after their Tesla caught fire
The fire department said in a news release, “To give you an idea of the severity, crews can typically put out a fully involved vehicle fire of approximately 500 gallons or less.”
Tesla vehicles have been recalled over the past 12 months for a variety of reasons, but not battery issues
The fire department’s statement said the excessive fire was due to the car’s lithium-ion battery. According to the press release, “This vehicle burned so hot and for such a long time that without the rims you might not even know it was a vehicle.”
The couple behind the wheel were on a family trip to Yarmouth, Massachusetts with their daughter when the fire broke out
The couple behind the wheel were on a family trip to Yarmouth, Massachusetts with their daughter when the fire broke out, WTAJ reports. They didn’t get their car until Monday.
The family told the guard that they encountered a large piece of debris on the freeway that they could not avoid. As the debris became trapped under her car, the engine began to smoke.
They managed to escape the vehicle with their dog, Coco, just before it burst into flames.
The Columbia Volunteer Fire Company, which supported the Morris Township operation, said it was the first time they had fought a Tesla fire.
In its press release, the company said, “To our knowledge, this is the first known Tesla Fire in this space. Training and pre-planning for an incident like this is critical. Today, this knowledge was put into action, and the incident went smoothly. It was a great learning experience for everyone, especially given the advances in the automotive industry we see today.”
The Morris Township Volunteer Fire Company asked several other departments for help fighting the blaze
Lithium-ion batteries are a Nobel Prize-winning innovation that hit the market in the early 1990s. An increase in the use of electric vehicles in recent years has brought to light some of the risks involved
Tesla batteries may be at a higher risk of burns due to the lithium-ion technology they use, which is a relatively recent introduction to the auto industry. Lithium-ion batteries charge faster, but can reach unusual temperatures if damaged.
An increase in the use of electric vehicles in recent years has brought to light some of the risks involved.
The batteries were a Nobel Prize-winning innovation that hit the market in the early 1990s.
Hailed as rechargeable, lightweight, powerful, durable and safe, batteries are seen as key to greening the world’s energy supply by storing energy, including from solar, wind and other renewable sources.
The technology has found its way into many people’s everyday lives, powering phones, laptops, vehicles and more.
The batteries’ electrolyte – a solution that allows electric current to flow – is flammable, explains Professor Dr. Donald Sadoway from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Materials Chemistry.
The fabric was chosen for its ability to handle the voltage involved, but fires can occur if the batteries are overcharged, overheated, defective or damaged, for example.
Over the years, problems have regularly started fires involving laptops, cell phones, hoverboards, electric vehicles, airplanes, and battery storage facilities.
A UN aviation agency said in 2016 that lithium-ion batteries should not be carried on passenger planes.
James Greenberger, head of the battery industry group, notes that other energy sources are not error-free, and he says that batteries are not inherently unsafe.
But he said the industry is concerned about the recent fires in New York and fear they could scare consumers away.
“This shouldn’t be happening and we need to find out what’s going on,” said Greenberger, executive director of NAATBatt – the North American trade association for designers, manufacturers and users of advanced battery technology.
Earlier this year, a white Tesla Model S spontaneously burst into flames at a junkyard in Rancho Cordova, California, after the car sat there for weeks following a collision.
The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District said firefighters arrived at the junkyard and found the Tesla fully ablaze. Each time firefighters tried to put out the flames, the Tesla’s battery reignited the fire.
The fire department posted an Instagram video of the ordeal and said that even if the firefighters turned the Tesla on its side to spray the battery directly, the car would burst into flames again “due to residual heat.”
Eventually, firefighters dug a pit near the Tesla and moved the burning car in, then filled the pit with water, “effectively submerging the battery compartment.”
The technology worked, and firefighters were able to put out the fire without injury and using 4,500 gallons of water — about the same amount of water needed to burn a building.
In December 2020, a home in San Ramon, California was burned down after the homeowner’s two Teslas caught fire in the middle of the night. An investigation by the San Ramon Valley Fire Department narrowed the cause of the fire down to either the car’s electrical system or the battery.
In April of this year, a Tesla in Nashua, New Hampshire that had hit a tree and caught fire was taken to a towing company’s property after the original fire was put out, but the vehicle caught fire again because the battery burned out.
Nashua Fire Department workers had to remove the battery from the burning car and seal it in a hazmat container to prevent it from continuing to burn.
“These electric vehicle fires present some unique challenges, and firefighters have been on site for an extended period of time to complete the extinguishing,” Nashua Fire said in a social media post.