A trailer carrying several Tesla Model Ys became engulfed in flames today at around 02:30 AM in Turkey (11:30 PM GMT), reported Turkish news agency IHA.
The fire broke out in one of six Teslas and spread to all the cars that were being transported out of Istanbul. However, the root cause of the flames is unknown, and an investigation is ongoing. The driver alerted the police and the fire department promptly, as per the local publication. One witness said that there was an explosion, and the rearmost vehicle caught fire first.
A video of the incident shared by an X user reveals the charred ruins of the six Model Ys, and several firefighters scrambling to douse the flames.
In one clip, a firefighter is seen rushing to extinguish the flame, but it continues to rage on, showcasing the challenges first responders face due to thermal runaway – a phenomenon where lithium-ion battery cells enter an uncontrollable, self-heating and oxygen-creating state, and the pack continues to reignite until there's nothing left to burn.
It took them an hour to extinguish the flames, and the vehicles were reportedly left “unusable.” Due to the risk of thermal runaway, some companies have come up with solutions like submerging fire-ravaged EVs in huge water tanks for several hours to cool them down and prevent reignition.
Fire solutions company Rosenbauer has another answer to thermal runaway: extinguishing the fire at the cell level by piercing the pack and injecting eight gallons of water per minute at 100 PSI. However, it could be a while before such solutions are successfully experimented and widely implemented.
Turkey has emerged as a promising market for the American EV maker. Tesla delivered its first EV in Turkey, a Model Y, in May 2023, and the brand appears to have garnered a lot of interest. A Turkish reporter estimated 8,000 deliveries by the end of September 2023, and over 10,000 by October.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New York City in September 2023, ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. Musk said during the meeting that Tesla was already working with Turkish suppliers and that the country was among the leading candidates for a future factory.
If the local witness accounts are to be believed, the fire emerged from one of the Teslas on the trailer – another stark reminder that even the biggest player in the EV space hasn’t found a definitive answer to eliminate fire risk. That’s not to say that EVs are more prone to fires than gas cars or hybrids.
US government data suggests that gas cars and hybrids are far more prone to catch fires than EVs. In 2020, there were 25 EV fires for every 100,000 vehicles sold, compared to 3,474 hybrid fires and 1,529 ICE fires, respectively. Although the share of EVs in the market has grown since, and the latest data might reflect a different trend.