Modified: February 1, 2023

Puncture of EV Part Triggers Thermal Runaway – A Need for Legislation?

On January 19, 2023, an incident that triggered an electric vehicle fire proved extremely challenging for the Wakefield Fire Department (WFD) to extinguish. Let’s explore the details of the news with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.

An Electric Car Burst into Flames on Interstate 95 as Battery Experiences Thermal Runaway

A car accident on Interstate 95 caused a vehicle to burst into flames. Massachusetts State Police received a distress call about a flaming Tesla, prompting the dispatch of five firefighting vehicles from nearby towns.

Fire Fighters and Massachusetts State Police Responded to the Incident

When the firefighters and the Massachusetts State Police arrived at the accident scene, they saw a Tesla smashed into a guard rail. The guardrail pierced through the vehicle’s undercarriage and punctured the lithium-ion battery packs, resulting in a thermal runaway.

Responding to Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Fire Is Becoming More Challenging

Extinguishing fires in electric vehicles is highly challenging to control. The five firefighting vehicles sprayed almost 20,000 gallons of water to put out the fire on the electric car.

After the firefighters extinguished the blazing fire, they called in the hazmat team to inspect the accident scene and determine whether it was safe to tow away the vehicle. 

Once the hazmat team cleared the accident scene, the burned Tesla was towed away, and the firefighters reported the incident to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Lithium-ion Batteries Are the Main Hazard in Electric Vehicles

According to WFD Chief Thomas Purcell, the department uses half a tank or, in some cases, a full tank to extinguish a fire in a gas-powered car. However, lithium-ion batteries are a serious hazard that goes into a chemical reaction (thermal runaway), releasing temperatures of 2,500 degrees. The batteries leaking also release tremendously toxic gases, making it difficult for fire companies to extinguish the flames.

Additional Challenges Responding Crews Must Consider When Fighting Vehicle Fires, Purcell States

Unlike gas-powered vehicles, there are additional challenges firefighting crews must consider when they’re responding to fires involving electric and hybrid vehicles. Purcell stated that firefighting vehicle fires are much more dangerous and require more resources than before.

Firefighting companies and crews must expect longer time frames when responding to fires involving electric and hybrid vehicles. The emergency responders must have a continuous and sustainable water supply and prepare for secondary fires.

Fortunately, the responding mutual aid companies had firefighting vehicles available to dispatch and control the EV fire on Interstate 95 immediately.

Fire Fighters Adapting to Control EV Vehicle Fires as Sales Rise

The fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles in the United States is the second largest in the world after Japan, and the sales of electric and hybrid cars increase every year. In response to climbing sales of electric and hybrid vehicles, the fire service continues to change its firefighting tactics to combat vehicle fires and protect its crew and others in the event of an electrical vehicle fire.

A Need for Legislation to hold EV Manufacturers Accountable 

The main issue was the lithium-ion batteries in the “puncture of EV part triggers thermal runaway” incident. Electric manufacturers are quick to state that a thermal runaway is “just a chemical reaction.” What if these electric vehicle fires arising from batteries are the main cause of injuries or death in future accidents?

Currently, there are no laws that hold electric car manufacturers liable for battery fires. This means liability will continue to fall on “negligent” drivers even if the fire results from a thermal runaway. The situation is similar to when there were no move-over laws and crew members or emergency personnel were responsible for their injuries and deaths.

Shouldn’t electric car manufacturers ensure their batteries are incredibly safe before selling their vehicles? The technology is still new, yet they’re making millions in sales. Isn’t it time electric car manufacturers take responsibility for the products they sell?

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys have more than 15 years of experience protecting the rights of injured victims across California and getting them the compensation they deserve.

If you suffered injuries in an accident due to another’s negligence, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be able to seek compensation.

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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