Seemingly without warning, a Tesla Model S "spontaneously" burst into flames while cruising down a California highway, according to the Sacramento Metro Fire District.
The Tesla was traveling at "freeway speeds," the fire district said in a Facebook post, until the driver noticed heavy black smoke emerging from the undercarriage. Fortunately, the motorist was able to pull over and exit the vehicle unharmed, but the flames continued to intensify, devouring the vehicle's front end.
A crew of firefighters used jacks to expose the Tesla's underside and extinguish the lithium ion battery blaze. Putting it out, though, required considerable effort.
Over the course of an hour, it took 6,000 gallons of water from three fire engines to subdue the flames because the Tesla's battery cells continued to combust.
"For reference, a fully involved traditional combustion vehicle can be extinguished with a single fire engine's 700 gallon water supply," the district wrote.
The vehicle battery compartment spontaneously caught fire while it was traveling freeway speeds on EB Hwy 50. The fire was extinguished with approx 6,000 gallons of water, as the battery cells continued to combust. Thankfully no injuries were reported. pic.twitter.com/PRmlWzQdXS
— Metro Fire of Sacramento (@metrofirepio) January 29, 2023
Lithium ion battery fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish. In addition to containing combustible and flammable materials like graphite and electrolytes, their cathodes also release oxygen as they continue to burn, making their fires formidably self-sustaining.
That's why using fire foam to smother the flames is ineffective, the district notes in a tweet.
As of now, it's unclear why the Tesla battery spontaneously went up in flames, especially since, according to the firefighters, the vehicle was undamaged prior to the fire.
Usually, a lithium battery fire is spurred by a collision, but a short circuit or excessively high temperatures could also cause a battery to combust.
Tesla cars are no strangers to suddenly combusting. In 2019, after several headline-making reports of parked Teslas catching fire seemingly without warning, the automaker released a software update "out of an abundance of caution" to improve the batteries' safety.
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