Ticking time bombs: Electronic Vehicles spontaneously combust after Hurricane Ian

Saltwater damage from Hurricane Ian has left South Florida with a new danger: electric vehicles (EVs) that spontaneously combust.

Florida’s State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis wants Tesla and other EV manufacturers to step up in light of this dangerous problem, apparently unforeseen by liberals and politicians pushing for an electric car takeover.

In a letter to Elon Musk, the chief executive at electric vehicle giant Tesla, Patronis demanded that manufacturers such as Tesla — which, he noted, had received immense public subsidies — take a more proactive role toward the issue.

He described a scenario in which a family returned from Ian to a totaled home — not from wind or waves, but because a storm surge into the garage caused the EV to explode.

“That’s a risk that requires more of a response from manufacturers than just telling consumer to consult the owner’s manual,” Patronis wrote.

The cause of EVs spontaneously combusting in South Florida after Hurricane Ian hit is saltwater damage. Saltwater can corrode electronic components and create an electrolyte that can lead to a fire.

It only takes a small amount of saltwater to create an electrolyte, and this poses a danger to EVs specifically because they are powered by electronic components. So far, six fires have been reported due to this issue in South Florida post-Hurricane Ian.

While rare, some of these fires were “surreal, and frankly scary,” Patronis wrote. In addition to their tendency to suddenly catch fire, putting out burning EVs requires five or six times as much time and ten times as much water as a burning gas-powered car. This is because the electronic components in EVs can continue to reignite even after the initial fire has been extinguished.

As the car market is forced to go electric and major storms increase, this risk will only grow, he pointed out.

Senator Rick Scott, former governor of Florida, also wrote letters to Tesla and other EV manufacturers urging them to take more proactive measures in light of the dangers of EVs post-Hurricane Ian. “The unfortunate reality is that there is a population of vehicles that could spontaneously combust, putting our first responders at risk, and the manufacturers are nowhere to be found.” he wrote.

Scott accused the Department of Transportation in a letter last week of giving “most consumers … the potentially life-threatening misimpression that their EVs will continue functioning properly after saltwater submersion—much like gas-powered vehicles.”

 

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