Normal Firefighters Call for Backup at yet Another Fire Inside of Rivian Plant

Rivian is taking the world by storm when it comes to EVs for the outdoor enthusiast. Yet, it continues to run into production challenges. A recurring issue the manufacturer has faced has been fires at its Normal, Illinois, plant. Just recently, it faced this danger yet again, calling into question the company’s safety protocols. 

What is Rivian?

Vehicle assembly at a Rivian plant in Normal, Illinois
Vehicle assembly at a Rivian plant | Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Founded in 2009, Rivian is a car manufacturer specializing in electric outdoor adventure vehicles. Having gone public in what CNBC called a “blockbuster IPO” in 2021, the company is now aiming to ramp up production amidst the challenges of supply chain shortfalls and other issues. 

Rivian currently makes two EV models aimed at outdoor enthusiasts: one pickup and one SUV. The pickup is known as the R1T. Designed to tackle the great outdoors, these EVs can operate in a range of temps, anywhere between -25ºF and 130ºF. The R1T can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 3 seconds, putting many other EVs to shame in that arena. The range of the R1T is estimated at 314 miles but can reach over 400 miles depending on more expensive trim level options.

Rivian’s SUV, the R1S, offers many of the same specs as the R1T. Where it mainly differs is in its potential range. The high end of its range is in the neighborhood of 320 miles, compared to the 400+ miles offered by the pickup. Nevertheless, both of these vehicles make enticing options for anyone wanting an EV capable of taking on the great outdoors. 

Rivian has hit some production bumps along the way

While Rivian remains an up-and-coming EV manufacturer, things haven’t always been smooth sailing for the company. For example, a fire recently broke out at its Normal, Illinois plant. 

In this instance, according to Inside EVs, the fire in question was an electric battery fire. When firefighters arrived, they observed that the flaming battery was not only on fire but also in thermal runaway, which means that “its cells were catching fire individually and causing a chain reaction throughout the pack.”

Such was the concern about a possible runaway fire that the Normal firefighters called for backup from nearby Bloomington. The crew continued to douse the battery long after the fire was extinguished to prevent reignition. 

It was not immediately clear what the cause of the fire was, but investigations are underway. Everyone hopes that a cause will be found so that such incidents will be unlikely to repeat themselves in the future. 

The Normal fire wasn’t the first at the plant

While no one was hurt in the incident, thanks to the use of a test booth and the evacuation of workers, this incident marked the third fire at the Normal plant since it opened in the fall of 2021. Back in October 2021, they faced a similar issue. 

In that case, the Rivian R1T plant dealt with a fire that ignited in an automated battery assembly area. Thankfully, the fire remained small, and no one was injured in the incident. Nevertheless, the Normal Fire Department responded. They used a hose line to extinguish the fire, and cells were also cooled to prevent thermal runaway.

The plant was evacuated to ensure everyone’s safety while the fire department took all the necessary precautions and confirmed that the danger had truly subsided. Once the smoke had been ventilated from the building, employees were permitted to return.

All in all, the fire could have been much worse, but it is troubling that it didn’t turn out to be the last at the plant. It seems that Rivian may have some work to do in the area of plant safety. 

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