There’s a lot of talk about electric vehicle fires even though there’s no statistic showing that they catch on fire any more frequently than gas-powered cars.
But there’s no doubt that they burn differently and it is affecting the work of first responders as we reported in a ‘Behind the scene look at how firefighters disabled a Tesla battery while extinguishing a Model S fire’.
We now have another interesting example with a new Model S crash in Austria.
Yesterday, a 19-year old woman driving a Tesla Model S on the Arlberg Expressway crashed into a concrete construction barrier at high-speed.
She was reportedly somehow “only slightly injured” according to the Fire brigade of the city of Landeck, and she was able to get out of the car before it quickly caught on fire.
Now electric or not, any car can catch on fire after hitting a concrete wall, but with a gas-powered car, there’s an important risk of an immediate explosion due to the gas tank. What is interesting in this case here is that there was no explosion and instead, a fire apparently started in the battery at the front of the vehicle where it impacted the concrete wall.
A battery fire can be extremely dangerous and burn strong, as you will see in the video below, but Tesla’s firewalls inside the battery pack clearly worked since it not only left enough time for the driver to evacuate but also for the firefighters to stop the fire before it spread to the entire battery pack.
Here’s an impressive video of the operation by the fire brigade of the city of Landeck:
As you can see, it was quite the operation with 35 men and 5 fire trucks standing by.
While the fire obviously destroyed most of the Model S, we can clearly see that it didn’t spread to the entire battery pack which is fitted at the base of the chassis from front to back:
The fire brigade says that they are putting the vehicle in quarantine for 48 hours at Tesla’s recommendation to make sure the rest of the battery pack doesn’t catch on fire.
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.”
It’s inevitable that some electric cars will catch on fire, especially after crashes, but it’s interesting to see how it’s being dealt with and how it’s quite apparently no more dangerous than driving around with a tank full of inflammable gas.