As Hurricane Ian ravaged southern Florida before heading north up the East Coast, the unique damage it inflicted upon electric vehicles (EVs) should provide a wake-up call for President Joe Biden and other green energy activists pushing battery power over fossil-fuel power, at least at this stage of the game.
Biden is so committed to EVs he even admits he cut U.S. oil production to raise the price of gasoline, simply to make Americans go green. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom became the first state executive to mandate all new vehicles must be zero emission by 2035, followed by New York. But Hurricane Ian has exposed a major flaw in EV batteries that activists have ignored for years. That impact can no longer be ignored.
With the seawater Ian pushed ashore in Florida, many EV owners were shocked to see their cars explode from “thermal runaway.” This is the process by which a chain reaction within a lithium battery is triggered, creating a fire that becomes very difficult to stop.
These high-voltage batteries, consisting of numerous cells, tightly packed together in a watertight, fire-resistant box, have a significant drawback – they operate within a very narrow temperature range. If a single cell should fail, it essentially becomes a small explosive, creating a tremendous amount of heat in only tenths of a second. The ensuing chemical fire, unlike regular fires, does not need oxygen from the atmosphere to sustain itself. Such explosions can also be created by highway collisions.
Thus, putting out a chemical fire not in need of oxygen can be most challenging. The truth of the matter is there is no easy way to do it. The direct cooling of battery cells is perhaps the best way but is time-consuming. In some cases it has taken as much as 8,000 gallons of water with firefighters on the scene for four or more hours. Where a fire cannot be extinguished, there can be a supervised burn out to prevent its spread by soaking the surrounding area with water. But a battery fire, appearing to have burned out, many times has not, resulting in reignition.
Imagine the dangers EV batteries present. A battery fire in a garaged vehicle could burn the entire house down if not stopped. Or, in highway crashes involving EV batteries, there is little time to contain the fire long enough to rescue those trapped inside a vehicle.
It would be interesting to know what the official position of the Secret Service is if the opportunity presented itself to field an EV limousine for the president, along with his caravan of security vehicles. Would they suggest an EV limo may well impose additional risks on the president’s safety?
The state fire marshal for Florida, Jimmy Patronis, was so concerned about these EV fires, he sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) summarizing his observations concerning the difficulty of putting EV fires out, especially those that reignite. Patronis demanded a quick answer to several questions including:
1) What advice has NHTSA mandated EV car manufacturers provide vehicle users about flooding damage to batteries?
2) Will standard firefighter gear protect against EV fire gases?
3) Should EV removal from hurricane zones be a designated cleanup duty?
4) Does NHTSA have any timeline data concerning post-flooding EV fires?
5) Does NHTSA have guidance on locations to deposit EVs posing a reigniting problem?
NHTSA advises that it has been studying the saltwater corrosion of batteries issue since Superstorm Sandy raised the problem in October 2012. It noted:
“Fires in electric vehicles can pose unique challenges for firefighters and other first responders. Since similar issues emerged with EVs after Superstorm Sandy, NHTSA has been researching the effect of saltwater immersion on batteries, and working with stakeholders to equip first responders with best practices on fighting battery fires.
“Nine years after Superstorm Sandy, in 2021, NHTSA launched the Battery Safety Initiative to “research areas such as battery diagnostics, management systems and even cybersecurity to ensure future cars with batteries onboard to power the entire vehicle are as safe as can be.”
Thus, an EV battery problem we have known about for 10 years, one occurring even when a vehicle is not in operation, still remains unresolved, still posing a dangerous threat to both people and property. Yet, despite this, Newsom is giving Californians just 13 more years to transition away from fossil-fueled cars to zero emission vehicles while Biden implements domestic policies driving American citizens to the same goal nationwide.
Six auto manufacturers have committed to phase out gas-powered cars within the next two decades. They are already taking steps to do so. Soon they will reach a point of no return. Other reasons exist for not pushing forward with EVs as well, such as an adequate infrastructure system for power and the exorbitant cost to buy a “mobile explosive.”
Hurricane Ian has demonstrated that when it comes to EVs, its proponents have put the proverbial cart before the horse.
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