Hurricane Idalia, which has wreaked havoc in Florida in recent days, is now causing indirect and unexpected damage to those who thought they were helping prevent extreme climate events from worsening: electric vehicle owners. We used ChatGPT to explain the context.
The Palm Harbor Fire Department issued a highly unusual warning to owners of Tesla and other electric vehicles in the area, saying their vehicles could catch fire without warning due to saltwater exposure. The warning, posted on Facebook, followed two cases of Tesla cars catching fire as a result of a chemical reaction of their battery materials with the salt water that flooded the area following the storm.
"If you have a hybrid or electric vehicle that has come into contact with saltwater due to recent flooding over the past 24 hours, it is essential to move the vehicle out of your closed parking lot without delay," the warning reads. "Exposure to salt water can cause lithium-ion batteries to catch fire. If possible, move your car to a higher place."
When salt water evaporates, it leaves behind salt residue, which can create short circuits between cells in lithium-ion batteries, causing them to catch fire. What is worrying is that an electric vehicle exposed to salt water may appear to be normal, but catch fire weeks after exposure.
The American media emphasized that this has nothing to do with the fundamentally misconception that electric vehicles are more prone to ignition than liquid-fuel-based vehicles. In fact, recent studies from Sweden have shown that electric vehicles ignite less than gasoline-powered vehicles – not just in absolute amounts, but also as a percentage of such cars sold each year. The reason for the misconception is that electric vehicles ignite is widely covered, while traditional cars that catch fire are not of interest to the media. On the other hand, electric cars are still more dangerous because the batteries heat up and make it very difficult to extinguish. To extinguish an electric vehicle fire, firefighters often have to waste tens of thousands of liters of water.
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