Organizers claim not to have the right tools to put out EV fires.
Although some EV fire cases call a lot of attention – such as the Model S in Shanghai last April or the Kona Electric in Canada last July 26 – a Batelle study concluded that the lithium-ion batteries risk of fire is “comparable to or perhaps slightly less than those for gasoline or diesel vehicular fuels”. That did not prevent Universal Technical Institute from banning EVs of its Friday Night Drags. With an excuse that may sound reasonable for many.
The event organizers said they simply do not have the means to put out a fire on electric cars.
“The reason for the exclusion is, in the event of a crash and possible resulting fire, our emergency vehicles currently do not carry the specific equipment required to suppress EV fires. As I’m sure you’re aware, conventional extinguishers are of no use in fighting lithium-ion battery fires,” David Hart, Texas Motor Speedway VP of Public Relations, told Teslarati.
Fire in EVs really demands a different approach. Firefighters have to be aware of how to deal with the high voltage systems of each model – mostly avoiding orange cables – and also have to use water. A lot of water. Check this video from NFPA.
One of the things that are clear about fighting a fire in an EV is to avoid what is called thermal runaway, a chain reaction that can make the battery burn down completely. Water helps to lower the temperature and to prevent triggering the chain reaction.
In the video, Ken Willette says firefighters probably need two engine company tanks of water instead of just one for ICE cars. And advises responders to provide more resources beforehand.
We are not sure if this is what Universal Technical Institute decided to avoid. Or if it was a way to create a “safe space” for combustion-engined cars, constantly beat up by EVs in drag races.
Whatever the real motivation is, this may lead to more restrictions towards EVs in competitions. One that EV owners can try to overcome by creating their own events – eventually allowing ICE vehicles to compete – or by offering to provide the “specific equipment required to suppress EV fires”. That would take this excuse off the table. Would people be able to make up a better one?