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New York Personal Injury Attorneys

Recent Electric Car Battery Fires Prompt Concern

Electrical fires continue to plague Tesla, the car manufacturer known for making electric vehicles. Recent fires in January 2023 include a Sacramento incident in which a Tesla car battery spontaneously burst into flames on a Sacramento freeway, requiring 6,000 gallons of water to extinguish and another in Massachusetts that required more than 20,000 gallons of water to extinguish.

These have led to some people vocalizing concerns over the safety of electric car batteries.

In three separate incidents in May 2022, the batteries in various models of Tesla’s electric vehicles ignited, leading to electrical fires that took hours to extinguish. This is compared to just minutes it would take to extinguish a typical car fire. 

Here, the New York car accident lawyers at Sullivan Papain Block McManus Coffinas & Cannavo P.C. discuss the dangers of electric car battery fires and how they may pose a greater risk compared to gas car fires.

Electrical Fires Rage Spontaneously or After Crash

While no one was killed in the most recent round of Tesla electric battery fires, the frequency of recent incidents, as well as the fact that the batteries can ignite without being provoked, is causing some concern.

Since June 2022, at least six Tesla vehicles have spontaneously caught fire while being driven or entirely stationary, including one that went up in flames before it even left the Massachusetts dealership it was parked in, according to WWJ 950.

A driver in Vancouver told CTV News Vancouver that his Tesla Model Y shut down while stopped near an intersection, cutting off the power to its electrical components, including the doors and windows. As smoke filled the car through the air vents, the panicked driver kicked through the window and climbed out, leaving the eight-month-old car to erupt into flames.

Emergency responders in California City, California were called to a separate incident that week in which a Tesla Model 3 spontaneously erupted in flames. According to Bakersfield Now, no one was inside the vehicle when the driver received a notification on his phone that his car alarm was going off. When he went outside, he found his car covered in smoke. Opening the door uncovered a wall of flames.

The same week, a third fire erupted in Brooklyn, Illinois, after the driver of a Tesla struck a fire hydrant at a high rate of speed. The driver fled on foot, leaving an injured passenger behind, according to The Belleville News-Democrat

Lithium-Ion Batteries May Prove Perilous for Fire Departments

Regarding the California City incident, founder Robert Swaim told Bakersfield Now that electric vehicle fires can be hard to fight. This is because, unlike a gas vehicle fire, which can be extinguished by putting water on top of the vehicle, an electric vehicle fire must be cooled from the bottom.

According to an article published in NBC News, the lithium-ion batteries used in Tesla’s electric vehicles pose a “unique threat” that many first responders may not be prepared for. 

Specifically, the electric batteries used in Tesla vehicles contain enough energy to power the average American home for more than two days, according to the EIA. This means that a blaze caused by a Tesla fire may burn longer and hotter than the average gas car fire.

According to Ken Boyce, the director of energy and power technologies at product-safety testing laboratory UL who spoke with Coffee or Die Magazine, “Whatever starts a runaway event, essentially, it starts to heat up the battery and the electrochemistry goes faster, which makes it heat up more. So you get this self-perpetuating phenomenon. And it typically ends in fire or explosion.” This means that even an electric car fire that appears to be extinguished can potentially reignite. 

Electric car fires are not only dangerous to those driving battery-operated vehicles but also to the community, as firefighters who must be at the scene of a fire for hours are unable to respond to other calls.  

This was the case in June 2022, when firefighters in Sacramento, California had to build a pit to entirely submerge a Tesla in  water to contain a fire that kept reigniting in the car’s battery compartment. The blaze took 4,500 gallons of water to extinguish, according to KKTV.

Consult New York Car Accident Attorneys at SPBMCC if You Have Been Injured in a Tesla Accident

Tesla car fires have required abnormal amounts of water, time, and manpower to extinguish. They prompt the concern that lithium-ion batteries pose a threat that fire departments cannot handle. The volatility of electric car battery fires could potentially cause irreparable damage to homes, businesses, and surrounding natural environments if first responders cannot mitigate the situation in time. These fires can also lead to tragic accidents and even fatalities, such as previous incidents in Houston, Texas and Lake Forest, California.

Our New York City car accident attorneys at Sullivan Papain Block McManus Coffinas & Cannavo P.C. stay up-to-date on these recent developments to best serve car accident victims. If you or a loved one experienced severe injury or death because of a Tesla accident or a Tesla car battery fire, please contact our team of attorneys by calling (212) 732-9000.

This article was originally posted on Oct. 14, 2022 and updated on Feb. 27, 2023. Information was sourced from external outlets. You can read more about recent electric car fires and the dangers of electric car batteries on NBC News, SFist and Coffee or Die Magazine.

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