Following the landfall of Hurricane Idalia in Florida’s Big Bend near Keaton Beach, a local fire and rescue department has issued a warning to owners of electric-powered vehicles. The Palm Harbor Fire Rescue, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, took to Facebook to caution owners that exposure to saltwater can potentially cause the vehicles’ batteries to catch fire. The warning specifically includes golf carts and scooters and advises owners to move their battery-powered vehicles out of garages if they have come into contact with saltwater. This precaution is crucial in order to prevent the spread of fire to the surrounding structures.
The fire department’s warning comes in the wake of a fire incident that occurred on Wednesday in nearby Dunedin. A Tesla vehicle caught fire, likely due to its exposure to saltwater in the aftermath of the hurricane. This incident prompted the Palm Harbor Fire Rescue to issue their warning on social media, urging owners to take immediate action and relocate their vehicles from garages to higher ground if they have been exposed to saltwater.
This issue of electric vehicle battery safety in coastal areas subject to storm surges has been a concern for Florida Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis for some time. Last year, Patronis sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) seeking answers regarding the threat posed by damaged electric vehicle batteries exposed to saltwater during hurricanes. In the letter, Patronis shared his own firsthand experience of witnessing the difficulty firefighters face when extinguishing fires in electric vehicles.
The NHTSA responded to Patronis’ concerns by stating that they have been researching the impact of saltwater corrosion on electric vehicles for the past decade, starting with their study following Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The agency recognized the unique challenges that electric vehicle fires pose for first responders and has been working on equipping them with best practices to combat these fires. In 2021, the NHTSA launched a Battery Safety Initiative to ensure the safety of electric vehicles, including researching battery diagnostics, management systems, and cybersecurity.
While some answers to Patronis’ questions remain unclear due to the relatively recent prevalence of electric vehicles, it is crucial to understand the dangers at hand and take necessary precautions to mitigate them. Keeping saltwater away from electric vehicles and vice versa is essential in preventing potential fires. Awareness about the dangers of saltwater exposure in electric vehicles is key to ensuring the safety of owners and their surrounding structures.
As Florida continues to face hurricane threats, it is important for owners of electric-powered vehicles in coastal areas to remain vigilant and take appropriate measures to safeguard their vehicles. The Palm Harbor Fire Rescue’s warning serves as a timely reminder of the potential risks and the need for proactive action. By staying informed and following safety guidelines, owners can help prevent potential disasters and protect their valuable assets.