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Behind the scene look at how firefighters disable a Tesla battery while extinguishing a Model S fire


Last week, a 62-year-old Tesla Model S owner drove into a sign announcing a construction site on the highway in Gratkorn, Austria. The sedan continued traveling down the highway for ~200 meters before coming to a stop and bursting into flames, according to local media reports (German).

Fortunately, the driver was reportedly able to get out OK. Overall a fairly banal accident, but the fire department shared a few interesting pictures of their attempt at extinguishing the fire and securing the vehicle.

In a more tragic accident in the Netherlands last week, the firefighters requested Tesla’s help to secure the vehicle after having difficulty extinguishing a fire originating from the damaged battery pack.

The volunteer firefighters of the Gratkorn Fire Department were a little more resourceful and instead pulled up the schematics of the Model S on their laptop to figure out how to disable the battery pack while extinguishing the fire.

Since the Model is “always on” and you can’t simply remove the key from the ignition, the high-voltage components have to be unplugged another way.

Here’s a gallery of the pictures the fire department shared on their website:

What they are actually trying to do here is to cut the “first responder cut loop” in order to “shut down the high voltage system outside of the high voltage battery and disables the SRS and airbag components”.

It looks like it has been destroyed in the pictures from the Gratkorn accident, but here what it looks like and where it is located in the Model S:

Tesla recommends using “large amounts of water” to extinguish a battery fire in its vehicles and to use a thermal imaging camera to monitor the battery for at least one hour after it is found to be completely cooled:

“If the high voltage battery catches fire, is exposed to high heat, or is bent, twisted, cracked, or breached in any way, use large amounts of water to cool the battery. DO NOT extinguish with a small amount of water. Always establish or request an additional water supply.”

Tesla offers extensive documentation and training for first responders on its website.

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