Flood damage to electric vehicles caused by Hurricane Ian is creating major issues in Florida

Electric vehicle on fire on side of freeway – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by: DJSinop

As Florida residents and officials continue to sweep away the mess caused by Hurricane Ian, they are discovering that the devastating storm has turned certain vehicles into incendiary devices on several roads, parking lots, and even on the back of tow trucks.

According to State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis, electric vehicles that were damaged and flooded by the hurricane have been catching fire without any warning throughout the most damaged parts of the state. In some instances, the EVs would randomly burst into flames, remain on fire, and then reignite several hours later.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put out a warning that electric vehicles can catch fire weeks after coming into contact with salt water.

As storms increase in strength and the sales of EVs increase throughout the world, it is a phenomenon we are expected to see much more. 

“Part of what we’re dealing with right now is that this is the first major storm that we’ve had in an area where we have a high penetration of electric vehicles. So we’re seeing these fires in these incidents more than we have with any of the other storms,” said Eric Fredrickson of Call2Recycle, a non-profit organization that specializes in transporting lithium-ion batteries to recycling facilities.

According to James Hammond, the assistant chief of operations at North Collier Fire Control & Rescue District, it’s also difficult for firemen who must use 8,000 to 12,000 gallons of water to put out the fires, which is more than 10 times as much as a gasoline engine-based vehicle.

“It’s just a constant flow trying to cool them down and stop the battery,” Hammond told ABC News.

According to Hammond, his staff has spent five to six hours dousing electric vehicles compared to the normal hour it takes to put out a regular gas-powered vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that the main cause of these fires is saltwater flooding. According to the EPA, the water set off a chain reaction in the engine and batteries that increased the likelihood that the components would catch fire.

Firefighters and safety experts agree that the main worry is that it is still unclear what could have started the fire in the first place. According to experts, the fire inside the car might have been started by as little as turning the wheel after saltwater damage.

According to Schneider, as EV use grows nationwide, thousands of fire departments and first responders must be trained in “the uniqueness and particulars of the hybrid and electric vehicles.”

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