Electric vehicles flooded by a storm surge produced by Hurricane Idalia have spontaneously ignited in the Big Bend area. This underscores a lesser-known safety concern for the thousands of Americans who recently purchased EVs and reside in coastal regions vulnerable to flooding.
In the aftermath of the storm, fire officials in Pinellas County, west of Tampa, reported at least two incidents of EVs combusting after lithium-ion batteries were exposed to the saltwater.
“If you own a hybrid or electric vehicle that has come into contact with saltwater due to recent flooding within the last 24 hours, it is crucial to relocate the vehicle from your garage without delay,” a Facebook post by Palm Harbor Fire Rescue reads.
“Saltwater exposure can trigger combustion in lithium-ion batteries. If possible, transfer your vehicle to higher ground,” the post continued.
It also said, “This includes golf carts and electric scooters. Don’t drive these through water. PHFR crews have seen numerous residents out in golf carts and children on scooters riding through water.”
Fire officials posted multiple images of a Tesla fire in Dunedin.
Video taken by James McLynas shows another burnt-out Tesla in Pinellas Park.
“Hurricane flooded Tesla Bursts into flames while being towed to the storage lot. Driver picked up the flood damaged Tesla from a storm damaged home and was towing it back when it burst into flames. Driver stopped on a street and quickly off loaded the burning car to save his truck. (that’s why there are burnt tow dollies under it). When the fire department arrived, they put it out, but it kept reigniting. After several attempts to put it out, they just let it burn out. This was all that was left,” McLynas wrote in his post on YouTube.
The issue with EV battery packs is that saltwater corrodes wiring and battery components, often leading to shorts or exposed wiring. And then thermal runaway ignites the battery — very few fire departments nationwide are trained in lithium fires. …