Last week, at least two Floridian Tesla owners learned the hard way what happens when salt water corrupts their vehicles’ battery system.
After Hurricane Idalia hit the Sunshine State’s Big Bend region and submerged their electric vehicles in seawater, both of them caught fire.
The Palm Harbor Fire Rescue took to social media to warn residents about storing their EVs inside or near a structure, noting that saltwater exposure can trigger combustion in lithium-ion batteries.
Carfax spokesperson Patrick Olsen provided more insight into the threat this type of flooding poses for electric vehicles.
“The salt water that is flooding can get into the battery and dry there, and once it dries, it creates what federal safety officials call bridges between cells, and that can lead to fires, and that those fires can come anywhere from days to weeks later,” Olsen explained. “And once an EV catches on fire, it is incredibly difficult to put it out.”
He explained that when floodwaters recede and mineral deposits from the salt water dry on the battery, it creates bridges between cells that can lead to fires breaking out days or even weeks later.
Furthermore, these fires release harmful chemicals and are difficult to suppress once ignited.
The U.S. Fire Administration noted a dozen incidents of EVs burning last year after being exposed to saltwater from Hurricane Ian – two of which led homes housing these cars to burn down as well because one single corrupted EV spontaneously combusted within a garage after drying off from its original exposure.