Up to 150 000 liters of water needed to put out a fire in an electric car
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...Teslas may take up to 30,000-40,000 gallons of water, maybe even more, to extinguish the battery pack once it starts burning..."
A US fire service recently needed to use 24 000 gallons - almost 90 000 liters - of water to put out a battery fire in a Tesla in a parking lot car fire. Studies suggest even more water may be necessary to put out fires in EVs.
According to an article in Firehouse.com on September 16, a Tesla was burning in the city of Stamford, US.
Two engines, a truck company, and an incident commander were initially dispatched. In total, 14 firefighters were sent to the scene, as soon as it was determined the vehicle involved in the fire was a Tesla.
Fire crews started out by pouring 200 gallons of water on to the fire, however soon realized it wasn=t enough to handle the burning battery, so they hooked up a second engine.
A total of 600 gallons per minute was poured onto the fire for 40 minutes before they were able to declare the fire extinguished. That is in total 24 000 US gallons of water.
In metric terms, 2200 liters of water per minute was poured on to the EV. Over 40 minutes of intervention, it amounts to a total of roughly 88 800 liters of water.
However, a Tesla might require twice that amount of water, or more, once the battery pack becomes fully involved.
According to an article on TheHill.com on August 17, 2021 it is considered normal procedure that firefighters will need to use up to 40 times more water to put out a fire in an EV, compared to a standard gasoline car.
The article also claims authorities have said a Tesla Model X poses a serious threat of starting a fire for hours after a crash.
“Normally a car fire you can put out with 500 to 1,000 gallons of water,” Austin Fire Department Division Chief Thayer Smith said, according The Independent.
“But Teslas may take up to 30,000-40,000 gallons of water, maybe even more, to extinguish the battery pack once it starts burning."
Woodlands Fire Chief Palmer Buck told Fox 7 that "there is no blueprint for putting out fires involving electric vehicles":
“There is not, at this point, any easily obtainable extinguishing agent on the market to deal with these fires. It all goes back to the way the cars are engineered with the battery pack being at the bottom of the car, and encased in a titanium shell, so you really can’t gain access to it, you just have to sit back and pour water on it,” Buck said.
A large part of the reason many EVs are notoriously difficult to extinguish may be due to the construction of the vehicle, with a heavily encased battery pack which is difficult to reach for the fire crews.
While normally, a conventional car fire may be put out with between 2000 and 4000 liters of water, an EV will often need a much more prolonged intervention because the battery is protected by a strong encasing. Because the chemicals in the battery will continue to produce their own oxygen to some degree, even when completely soaked, the water is often less effective than of conventional fuels.
Many experts recommend the method of submersion of a burning EV into a water filled container like a sea can. However, this is is not always practical or possible to arrange, and it also takes considerable time to fill the container which may be counterproductive when needing to protect surrounding vehicles or buildings from the EV fire.
Some fire services have improvised their own methods of partial submersion for EVs on fire, as CTIF.org reported on earlier this August.