A number of Teslas caught fire in a garage, causing extensive damage to a residence in San Ramon.
Although it’s only happened a few times, several automakers have been attempting to find out what’s causing their electric cars to burn up – sometimes as the automobiles’ batteries are being recharged.
A most spectacular incident occurred 8 months ago in San Ramon when a fire broke out in the garage of Jorgen and Carolyn Vindum’s home, where their two Tesla cars were stored. When the alarms startled the couple out of bed, their 2013 Model S 85 was charging alongside their 2017 Model S 75.
Jorgen Vindum remembered, “I noticed fires rising from the garage and climbing all the way up to the top floor of the home.” Vindum phoned 911 at 5:39 a.m. after he and his family were safely outdoors. He then videotaped the flames on his mobile while barefoot and in his jammies.
“You can hear the caught fire vehicles explode, and you can really hear the second car’s horn go off,” he added. “The vehicles continued to re-ignite.”
The explosions, according to Vindum, blasted the garage’s metal rollup doors off.
A fire investigation study cites issues with the thermal management system and a malfunction in the power system of the automobile getting charged as probable causes for the Dec. 30 blaze, as first reported by the Washington Post.
Vindum told the Union-Tribune that fire firefighters reached in eight minutes and that it took them around 20 to 30 minutes to extinguish the fire. Much of the house was destroyed, and both Teslas were completely destroyed. Anyone sleeping immediately over the garage, according to Vindum, would have perished.
The San Ramon incident is one of a number of incidents involving battery cells in EVs.
GM issued a second recall for almost 69,000 Chevy Bolts the previous month when two vehicles that had recently been fixed caught fire. The flames were caused by “two uncommon manufacturing faults” in the battery cell of certain Bolt EVs built between 2017 and 2019, according to Dan Flores of GM Network News Communications.
Homeowners should park their Bolts outside soon after they are charged, according to Flores, and driver should not keep their automobiles charging overnight.
GM also advised owners to keep the car charged up to 90% of the time and prevent decreasing the battery’s range below 70 miles whenever feasible.
In the last year, Hyundai, Ford, and BMW have all announced recalls due to the risk of batteries igniting when charging or overheated.
A Tesla Model S Plaid, a new high-performance EV made by Elon Musk’s manufacturer, caught fire as the owner was driving six weeks ago, according to fire authorities in suburban Philadelphia. The driver told CNBC that he spotted smoke rising from the bottom of the vehicle and jumped out just before the fire erupted, according to his attorneys.
Similar incidents have been recorded, including one from a Tesla user driving a 2015 Model S in Frisco, Texas in November 2020, and another from a Tesla owner driving a Model S along Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles in 2018, whose wife stated he “was hardly moving in traffic.”
The Union-Tribune sent Tesla letters asking if it had figured out what sparked the events in San Ramon and suburban Philadelphia. Tesla did not answer.
The NFPA was less certain, stating that there is no clear answer as to whether EVs have a higher, lower, or equal risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.
“Right now, when we monitor automotive fires, there’s no way for fire services or any reporting agency to distinguish whether it was a hybrid or electric car against a gasoline-powered vehicle,” said Michael Gorin, project coordinator for the NFPA’s emerging problems team.
“On average, a typical internal combustion engine car fire occurs every three minutes on U.S. highways,” Gorin added. “At the moment, there’s no reason to believe that an electric car is any more dangerous than a regular vehicle.
When it comes to EV fires, however, firemen have a unique set of problems, because of the rechargeable batteries that power them. An EV or hybrid vehicle’s energy cell banks are way bigger than those in your smartphone or laptop.
The cell casing of an electric vehicle battery might rupture if it experiences a short circuit, such as after an accident or overheating while being charged. When one cell ignites, it can spread to neighboring cells, causing a fire. This is known as thermal runaway.
This can cause powerful fires that require a long time and a lot of water to extinguish.
in April, NBC News published a collision outside of Houston in which two individuals were killed in a Tesla Model S that caught fire. Because the automobile kept re-igniting, it took firemen seven hours and 28,000 gallons of water to put out the fire, which is more than the department typically uses in a month. According to the NBC article, a typical fire involving an internal combustion vehicle requires roughly 300 gallons of water to put out.
According to Tesla’s official Emergency Response Protocol, a lithium battery can take anywhere from 3,000 to 8,000 gallons of water to properly extinguish and cool down.
According to Gorin, the quantity of water used is primarily determined by whether rescuers can reach the cause of the fire quickly.
“One of the problems is that you have this massive battery pack in the car that is covered in steel to preserve it, and it’s an engineering design that was done for various reasons to save the vehicle’s undercarriage,” Gorin explained. “Because (firemen) can’t get the water to the battery directly with these batteries, they’re merely cooling the shell surrounding the battery. That’s why you could hear tales of fires being put out with variable levels of water because… they’re not getting water straight into it.”
When firemen arrived at the incident at Vindum’s home in San Ramon, he claimed the temperature was so intense that they couldn’t walk up the driveway. “From the heat, both my wife and I became burnt to the point that our noses peeled the day after,” he added.
The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s Training and Education Division sent out an online training simulation about the “challenges connected with fires” in hybrid vehicles in June, citing one of the top rates of EV adoption in the nation. Logging in and reading the document is mandatory for all employees. Station commanders regularly discuss training maneuvers with their workers, according to a Fire-Rescue spokesman.
“While flames not affecting the batteries may be put out like any other vehicle fire,” the two-page document said, “rescue crews should avoid making touch with any live electrical parts while overhauling.” “Be ready to use much more water than you would for other car fires if the battery catches fire, is exposed to extreme heat, or is damaged.”
Given the risk of reignition, towing companies should urge their customers to keep their cars at least 50 feet away from other vehicles or buildings in their properties.
Bill Lamb, a 76-year-old San Diego retiree who served in the Navy, goes on to say he is in favor of the move away from gasoline engines but is concerned about EVs burning up in underground parking areas.
Vindum claims Tesla has not called him for information to assist them to find out exactly what happened eight months just after the garage fire.
He expressed his disappointment by saying, “That has been disappointing.” “Who knows what’s causing this, but if they don’t know, they should investigate it, and if they do, I believe they should inform us. Either recall them or make repairs.”
Vindum and his family have acquired a new automobile, a gas Audi A4, thanks to reimbursement from their automobile insurance.
Given this, Vindum stated that he might consider purchasing an additional electric car, although one that he’d never charge in his carport.
“I believe (EVs) are the way of the future,” said the retired mechanical engineer. “I am a supporter of renewable energy. In the 1980s and 1990s, I spent seven years developing some of the country’s largest solar systems.”
Sinton shares these sentiments.
He stated, “It’s where we’re going.” “We’re worried about climate change. We clearly live in a place where fires are a major issue, and we’re also worried about the environment. Also, because these occurrences are uncommon in the community of electric cars, I don’t believe you should be alarmed.”