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Crash probes in US, Europe, highlight lithium fires

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 12:18 -- John Shepherd
Crash probes in US, Europe, highlight lithium fires

Lithium-ion batteries continue to be in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons— the latest being fatal crashes and fires in the US and Europe.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has confirmed it is investigating a crash involving a 2014 Tesla Model S in Florida, which was “reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed when it struck a wall resulting in a post-crash fire”.

Two occupants of the vehicle died and another was injured.

NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said: “NTSB has a long history of investigating emerging transportation technologies, such as lithium-ion battery fires in commercial aviation.”

Meanwhile, fire chiefs in California— the scene of another fatal crash involving a Tesla earlier this year— have reportedly highlighted concerns for first responders in dealing with electric vehicle battery fires.

In Ticino, southern Switzerland, fire chiefs said the impact of a fatal car crash there this month (pictured) may have caused the Tesla vehicle’s battery to ignite— setting the car ablaze with the driver inside.

A Facebook post by the Ticino fire service— which was later removed— said: “The violent impact of lithium-ion batteries could probably have caused a phenomenon called thermal runaway.”

On the Swiss accident, a Tesla spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened… and we are working to establish the facts of the incident and offer our full cooperation to local authorities.”

A 2016 article in the official journal of the US National Fire Protection Association likened lithium-ion batteries to “trick birthday candles that can ignite, or reignite, long after they have been damaged or involved in a fire—hours, days, or even weeks later”.


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