Electric-Car Era Threatens Firefighters With New Road Risks

By Alan Levin
May 15, 2018

Firefighters doused the blazing Tesla Inc. Model X’s battery pack, and then company engineers removed about one-quarter of its power cells before the vehicle was deemed safe to tow off of a California freeway.

That didn’t prevent the powerful and highly flammable lithium-ion battery cells from reigniting. The car caught fire twice more within 24 hours of the March 23 fatal crash, and again six days later, according to a safety bulletin from the fire department in Mountain View.

Fires on electric vehicles are rare, but the volatile chemistry of their batteries and the need for special training on how to extinguish them raises new safety questions as automakers are poised to dramatically increase production. Techniques for putting out burning gasoline-fueled vehicles could make worse a blaze in a battery powered one.

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