Warning issued as electric vehicles catch fire following Hurricane Ian


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Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian, officials have warned of that electric vehicles that have been damaged by the storm may now pose a fire risk as a result of being submerged in salt water.

Firefighters in Naples have responded to at least six fires involving EVs that had been damaged in the storm, according to the Florida Phoenix.

Experts have said that vehicles that may have been submerged in saltwater for extended periods of time are of particular concern.

“Electric vehicles that have been submerged in water, especially saltwater, have a potential risk of experiencing a high-voltage electrical battery fire,” said Victoria Hutchison, a project manager at the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA.

“First responders should be prepared to respond to a potential fire and should handle EVs that may have been submerged with greater caution.” 

Hutchison explained that saltwater can accelerate corrosion, meaning that following a saltwater storm surge scenario, the salt deposits that can remain on the EV batteries after the water has receded and can cause rapid corrosion and increase the risk of thermal runaway.

“Furthermore, there’s no set period in which this potential thermal reaction will occur—it can be hours, days, or even weeks later,” she warned

In a statement sent to Florida State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in that when EVs batteries are submerged in saltwater, specifically, “salt bridges can form within the battery pack and provide a path for short-circuit and self-heating.”

In a Facebook post, the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District Administration advised EV owners whose vehicles may have been damaged during Hurricane Ian to tow the affected vehicle from their home using towing operator that knows how to safely and properly tow EV vehicles.

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