Ford F-150 Lightning fire video highlights growing EV danger

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New video shows fire involving Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup

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DEARBORN, Mich.– New video footage of a fire including a Ford F-150 Lightning this year highlights a growing issue around electrical automobiles: unpredictable fires from the batteries that power them.

The formerly unreleased video, which CNBC gotten through Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act from the Dearborn Police Department, reveals smoke rippling from 3 firmly loaded electrical pickups in a Ford Motor holding lot in Dearborn, Michigan.

Moments later on, flames shoot numerous feet above the automobiles, which were vacant. It wasn’t clear based upon public files and authorities video for how long the fires burned. Experts state EV fires can take hours, instead of minutes, to snuff out.

EV fires have actually ended up being a growing issue as car manufacturers press to increase sales of electrical automobiles and satisfy tightening up emissions requirements.

The Biden administration has actually set a target for half of brand-new automobiles offered in the U.S. by 2030 to be electrical. Automakers are investing billions of dollars to energize their lineups. However, there’s been little to no conversation about very first responder training for when the automobiles ignite, whether due to a breakdown or, more frequently, a crash.

An electrical Ford F-150 Lightning ignited onFeb 4, 2023 due to a battery problem traced back to among the car manufacturer’s providers. The blaze infect 2 other electrical pickups in a holding great deal of Ford’s in Dearborn, Michigan.

Dearborn Police Department

TheFeb 4 holding lot fire at Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn triggered the business to rapidly stop production of the brand-new pickup for 5 weeks. The car manufacturer likewise remembered 18 of the automobiles, which Ford has actually compared to the Model T in regards to significance to the business.

Ford determined the source as associated to battery cell production made by provider, SK On.

Police officers reacting to the blaze explained the automobiles as being “engulfed in flames” and can be heard on video stressing that the automobiles might “blow up.” Lithium- ion batteries, frequently utilized in EVs, can be unpredictable and exceptionally challenging to put out as soon as on fire.

“We’re not putting this f—er out. Look at it,” stated one reacting officer throughout the February F-150 Lightning fire.

First responders can be heard on video revealing issue about just how much water is required to put out EV fires and whether an unique foam would be needed. They likewise questioned the practicality and security of electrical automobiles.

“They have to put like a whole f—ing lake on it to put them out,” the very same officer stated throughout theFeb 4 occasion.

An electrical Ford F-150 Lightning ignited onFeb 4, 2023 due to a battery problem traced back to among the car manufacturer’s providers. The blaze infect 2 other electrical pickups in a holding great deal of Ford’s in Dearborn, Michigan.

Dearborn Police Department

The video gotten by CNBC amounted to about 2 hours of video, consisting of overlapping video, from 17 authorities bodycams and car dashcams in between 3: 36 p.m. and 4: 22 p.m. ET, according to time stamps on the bodycam videos.

Photos gotten from Dearborn Police through a different Michigan FOIA demand reveal the consequences of the blaze. One of the 3 automobiles is hardly identifiable, with its body almost melted to the ground. The 2 nearby automobiles were likewise greatly harmed.

“There was just one [vehicle on fire] when we got here. They’re capturing. It’s these frickin’ batteries,” that very same reacting officer stated, according to the video.

The F-150 Lightning fire took place while the car was charging in a holding lot throughout a pre-delivery quality check and was brought on by an internal brief circuit due to a production problem when cells in the battery were at a high state of charge, according to public files related to the recall. Ford stated engineers identified there was no proof of a charging fault.

“Together with SK On, we confirmed the root causes and swiftly implemented quality actions,” Ford stated in a declaration to CNBC. “The Rouge Electric Vehicle Center has been back up and running since March 13 and is back to full production and shipping vehicles to customers.”

The fire contributed to continuous quality and execution problems that have actually afflicted the car manufacturer as it tries to reorganize its organization and position itself much better for EVs.

An electrical Ford F-150 Lightning ignited onFeb 4, 2023 due to a battery problem traced back to among the car manufacturer’s providers. The blaze infect 2 other electrical pickups in a holding great deal of Ford’s in Dearborn, Michigan.

Dearborn Police Department

Growing issue

Vehicle fires are not brand-new. They frequently happen in standard automobiles with internal combustion engines. But the fires that can arise from EVs such as the F-150 Lightning and their batteries are significantly stressing for very first responders throughout the nation, in part due to the fact that they include a domino effect in between battery cells referred to as thermal runaway.

Such fires likewise are a growing issue for car manufacturers who might lose the momentum they have actually constructed with vehicle purchasers and climate-conscious legislators if the danger continues shaking public self-confidence in the innovation.

Fires including EV batteries can burn hotter and longer and need brand-new strategies to snuff out.

A report from the Dearborn Fire Department, which reacted to the February Lightning fire, stated among the automobiles was identified to be “un-extinguishable” and firemens needed to get in touch with an associate with “expertise in EV technology” on what to do.

“This is a big issue globally,” stated Michael O’Brian, board member of the International Fire Chiefs Association, who leads fire and life security. “We need to better understand what the best processes are through testing and evaluation with real firefighters.”

Why electric vehicle fires are so challenging

EVs are powered by a series of battery cells inside an airtight pack that’s developed to avoid any compounds from passing in or out. The loads likewise are generally constructed into the underbodies or frames of the automobiles, an area that can be challenging for very first responders to reach. And even if they might quickly access the cells, the “fire” is really a chain reaction and even more challenging to manage than a conventional gas fire.

“You’re now dealing with a vehicle that doesn’t work like anything else you’ve been taught,” stated David Dalrymple, a volunteer firemen in New Jersey who owns a very first action training and consulting organization called HighwayRescue “It’s a totally different animal. … The primary goal is to cool it down to take away that chemical reaction.”

Dalrymple, who likewise serves on a Society of Automotive Engineers committee concentrating on EV fire problems and requirements, kept in mind some other nations permit very first responders to search for what dangerous products remain in an automobile based upon the license plate. A comparable system might be beneficial in the U.S., he stated.

A 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV ignited at a house in Cherokee County, Georgia onSept 13, 2021, according to the regional fire department.

Cherokee County Fire Department

Experts are still attempting to identify EV fire occurrence rates; the information is challenging to gather from diverse fire departments. Vehicle fires including internal combustion engines are even more typical than EVs, nevertheless specialists anticipate that to constantly level as more amazed automobiles are offered.

Problems with plug-in automobiles that utilize such batteries have actually led car manufacturers consisting of Ford, General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche to remember designs. GM from 2020 to 2021 needed to remember all of its electrical Chevrolet Bolt designs developed to that point due to a battery problem that led to numerous reported fires.

As an outcome, GM broadened a continuous across the country program to inform public security, fire and emergency situation company on how to a lot of successfully manage emergency situation scenarios including electrical automobiles.

The state of Virginia has actually taken it upon itself to train firemens. A costs that needs them to finish a training program about the danger of electrical car fires passed all this year.

Trial by fire

Firefighters significantly are dealing with the obstacles developed by EV fires. This is made more complex by what some specialists state is an absence of policies and requirements, which enables car manufacturers to do as they like relating to the style and rollout of EVs.

For more than a century, very first responders have actually rather quickly snuffed out car engine fires by popping the hood and drowning the location in water. That playbook does not deal with EVs.

An electrical Ford F-150 Lightning ignited onFeb 4, 2023 due to a battery problem traced back to among the car manufacturer’s providers. The blaze infect 2 other electrical pickups in a holding great deal of Ford’s in Dearborn, Michigan.

Dearborn Police Department

Each car is distinct and might need various strategies to snuff out, which implies there are no set requirements for putting out an EV fire.

Current finest practices for an EV fire, depending upon who you talk to, consist of immersing the automobiles in water, piercing the battery pack and flooding it with water, disabling an automobile’s 12- volt circuit, or just letting the fire burn up until it’s out, discharging chemical toxic substances into the air.

O’Brian, a fire chief in rural Brighton beyond Detroit, stated the larger the battery, the greater the issue for very first responders. He likewise kept in mind that brand-new battery plants to produce the cells for the automobiles typically cost billions of dollars, highlighting what he viewed as relatively little financing being directed to the training of fire departments.

“I continue to keep advocating that both state and federal government needs to truly invest within the fire service on this topic for training, best practices, lab time,” O’Brian stated. “It’s as simple as what’s the best way to turn up your efforts when exposed to lithium-ion off-gassing” when the automobiles ignite.

O’Brian stated as soon as the thermal runaway starts there’s actually no putting the fire out unless you stop the domino effect of lithium-ion cells from overheating.

It’s uncertain the number of, if any, individuals have actually passed away from an electrical car spontaneously igniting. There have actually been reports of deadly fires following crashes, however sometimes EVs have actually ignited when charging and vacant.

There’s likewise the danger of reignition: Lithium- ion battery fires can re-engage weeks later on with little to no caution. The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District reacted to such an event in 2015 including a Tesla that had actually remained in a mishap 3 weeks prior.

Once the F-150 Lightning fire was under control onFeb 4, Ford had security keeping an eye on the automobiles throughout the night in case they end up being “involved again,” according to the Dearborn Fire Department report.

William Lerner, an independent security tech creator and delegate for the International Organization for Standardization, stated finest practices would require a three-week tracking duration after a fire, with specific attention throughout the very first 24 hours.

Lerner, who works carefully with very first responders and their fitness instructors, revealed issue that very first responders might not have the suitable individual defense and security devices to manage the fires. He stated the devices utilized for a conventional car fire might not be adequate.

“The whole way of dealing with this is completely different,” he stated. “The only similarities are they have four wheels, and they look like cars. It’s a completely different product, and that’s the problem.”

Ford, in its Emergency Response Guide for the 2022 Lightning, broadly information some problems about the capacity for reignition in case of a fire and recommends keeping the car outside or a minimum of 50 feet far from other items. It does not use a service for putting out a battery fire besides “LARGE amounts of water” or utilizing a “Class ABC powder-type extinguisher to contain and smother the flames.”

Ford stated the business “took part in an information-sharing session on how to handle battery fires in summer 2022 with members of the Dearborn fire department.”

An electrical Ford F-150 Lightning ignited onFeb 4, 2023 due to a battery problem traced back to among the car manufacturer’s providers. The blaze infect 2 other electrical pickups in a holding great deal of Ford’s in Dearborn, Michigan.

Dearborn Police Department

“We continue to look at opportunities to help educate on this topic,” the car manufacturer stated.

Dearborn Police Chief Joseph Murray decreased to comment about theFeb 4 F-150 Lightning fire or any training his department has actually provided for EVs.

Experts state such training for very first responders is a start, however it requires to be continuously upgraded and presented. There are likewise worries about the workforce and capability of fire departments to manage EV fires, according to numerous authorities. Not to point out the alarming situations they might be handling including car residents, which are their very first concern.

“When you have an EV fire, you don’t have the time to stop and look through an emergency response guide or to call, you know, GM, or methodically figure out is it a 2012 Tesla or 2022,” Lerner stated. “You’ve got human beings in there that can die. So, you may not have one second to waste in order to get these human beings out.”

— CNBC’s Lora Kolodny added to this report.