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Combusting Model S battery put out with 20x the usual gallons of water as per Tesla's EV fire manual

Sacramento firefighters dealing with the Model S combustion (image: Metro Fire Sacramento)
Sacramento firefighters dealing with the Model S combustion (image: Metro Fire Sacramento)
Despite following Tesla's Model S first respondents manual to the letter, firefighters from the Sacramento Metropolitan District still had to put out its 'spontaneously' flaming battery with 20 times the amount of water needed for an ICE vehicle. Tesla does warn in its instructions that up to 8,000 gallons may go towards extinguishing a burning EV.

A brigade of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District had to use 6,000 gallons of water to extinguish the flames coming from a Tesla Model S battery compartment that they say "spontaneously caught fire while it was traveling freeway speeds on EB Hwy 50." While it is not clear why and how the Model S combusted on the highway, the occupants managed to get away unscathed and there have been no injuries reported.

The firefighters had to jack up the Tesla and put the nozzles below the undercarriage to try and cool down the battery first, as per Tesla's firefighting instructions that they cite as a reference, but still had to use an enormous amount of water to fully extinguish the pack that kept combusting. The fire brigade was acting according to Tesla's own Model S fire-extinguishing manual which warns that up to 8,000 gallons of water may be needed per battery fire:

If the battery catches fire, is exposed to high heat, or is generating heat or gases, use large amounts of water to cool the battery. It can take between approximately 3,000-8,000 gallons (11,356-30,283 liters) of water, applied directly to the battery, to fully extinguish and cool down a battery fire; always establish or request additional water supply early. If water is not immediately available, use CO2, dry chemicals, or another typical fire-extinguishing agent to fight the fire until water is available. Tesla does not recommend the use of foam on electric vehicles. Apply water directly to the battery. If safety permits, lift or tilt the vehicle for more direct access to the battery. Water may be applied onto the pack from a safe distance ONLY if a natural opening (such as a vent or opening from a collision) already exists. Do not open the battery for the purpose of cooling it.

Fire departments across the globe are increasingly having to deal with spontaneously combusting electric vehicle batteries with varying degrees of success. Electric Porsches that caught fire on the Felicity Ace ship  last year couldn't be put out, and the ship sank with them burning. In another instance, a junkyard Tesla that has been sitting on the wrecking lot for weeks caught fire and had to be dunked to be extinguished, despite that "Tesla does not recommend placing the vehicle in a large tank of water." In some extreme early cases, unprepared firefighters in Texas had to use nearly 30,000 gallons to put out a Tesla, as much as the department typically uses in a month.

Companies that make firefighting equipment, however, are increasingly coming up with solutions to solve the problem of spontaneously combusting EVs which will only be growing from now on. The fire truck makers from Rosenbauer, for instance, have developed high-pressure nozzles meant to go right underneath the battery pack. The water can then pierce through the unit's packaging and douse the cells directly, which results in a much higher success rate and lesser amounts of water used.

Until more such EV firefighting tools are invented and distributed to fire departments, however, putting out electric vehicle batteries will seemingly keep requiring more than 20 times the water amount used to extinguish a flaming gas-powered car.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2023 01 > Combusting Model S battery put out with 20x the usual gallons of water as per Tesla's EV fire manual
Daniel Zlatev, 2023-01-30 (Update: 2023-01-30)