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In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Ian in Florida, things are going from bad to worse. The destruction is massive, and also ongoing. That’s because even though the hurricane occurred over a week ago, its after-effects are mounting. These include the instances of Tesla EVs exploding into flames around the state. The mixture of electricity and salt water leads to these latent fires

Why are Tesla EVs catching on fire in Florida?

Tesla fires
Florida flooded Teslas | NewsNation via YouTube

Florida State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis on Twitter wrote, “There’s a ton of EVs disabled from lan. As those batteries corrode, fires start. That’s a new challenge that our firefighters haven’t faced before. At least on this kind of scale”. In Naples, Florida alone, there have been four reports of Tesla fires since Hurricane Ian struck. 

EV fires have always posed problems for firefighters. The energy stored in the batteries doesn’t dissipate over time. “So you have the stored energy in the batteries,” Stephen Gollan with Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue told NewsNation. “Just because the vehicle is submerged doesn’t mean the energy is discharged in any way. Anytime you mix electrical components and salt water together, it is a recipe for disaster.”

Are these types of Tesla fires common?

Florida flooded Teslas | NewsNation via YouTube

This has been a known problem for some time, and Florida isn’t the first instance of it happening. In 2018, Italy’s Port of Savona became flooded. Stored there were Maserati hybrids for export. A number of them caught fire when the salt water leaked into the lithium-ion batteries. 

“This is an issue many fire departments across southwest Florida are experiencing right now,” North Collier Fire District states. “These vehicles have been submerged in salt water, they have extensive damage and can potentially be serious fire hazards. No one was injured in the fire, traffic interruption was minimal, and the crews remained on scene with the vehicle for hours to ensure it was extinguished.”

How long does it take to put these fires out?

 Tesla fires
Florida flooded Teslas | NewsNation via YouTube

Extinguishing these very hot fires can take thousands of gallons of water. Tesla’s emergency response guide says between 3,000 to 8,000 gallons of water are necessary to extinguish an EV fire. For gas-powered vehicles, it takes on average around 1,000 gallons of water to put out a fire.  

There have been many instances when after a few days the EV will catch on fire a second time. “It takes special training and understanding of EVs to ensure these fires are put out quickly and safely,” Patronis said. 

Florida has 95,000 registered EVs according to the Department of Energy. It comes in second for the amount of EVs in each state only to California, with 563,000. But according to experts, gas-powered vehicles are much more likely to burst into flames than electric vehicles.

Experts combed through National Safety Board, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and government recalls. It found that gas-powered vehicles had 1,529 fires per 100,000 sales. Conversely, electric vehicles caught fire 25 times for 100,000 sales.


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