April 23, 2021: Reports of a fatal Tesla car crash that took place in Texas on April 17 say firefighters took more than four hours and 30,000 gallons of water to put out a fire caused by the lithium battery continually re-igniting.
According to the reports, the car was being driven by Tesla’s self-driving system, and there was no one in the driving seat when it crashed – instead, the two passengers were seated in the passenger seat and a rear seat. Both were killed.
In December 2020, the Washington Post reported that Tesla sent investigators in to see if they could ascertain the cause of a Model S explosion in Dallas.
The car’s owner, Usmaan Ahmad, managed to escape.
“The combustion of Ahmad’s car is one of a growing number of fire incidents involving older Tesla Model S and X vehicles that experts say are related to the battery, raising questions about the safety and durability of electric vehicles as they age,” says the paper, which also said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had evaluated the fire and contacted Tesla over the matter.
In March 2021, news agency Bloomberg reported that the NHTSA opened an investigation into a defect that could spell danger for 1.9 million Toyota RAV4 SUVs.
When it comes to stationary storage, lithium battery inventor Stanley Whittingham said fire chiefs in the US would not approve roof-top lithium battery installations because it meant they would be higher than fire fighters’ ladders could reach, even though that would be the ideal position for them.
He also said people needed to be trained in how to deal with fires when they happened.
“It depends on their size,” he said. “On aeroplanes they put them in iced water. In some cases, like Teslas, it’s best just to let them burn.”
In the latest issue of Batteries International, we put lithium-ion batteries under the spotlight in our article that shows how the year 2020 was a record year for electric car battery recalls.
- Separately, as this bulletin was being released reports were coming in of a lithium battery fire in a shopping centre in Beijing that had killed two firefighters and had required 235 firefighters with 47 fire trucks to put out the blaze. The 25MWh DC battery facility was part of a system which also featured 1.4 MW of solar generation capacity on the roof of the shopping mall and 94 EV parking places/charging points.