In June 2022, a Tesla that had been involved in a crash caught fire while being stored at Copart, an Exeter auction house for used cars. The fire went unnoticed until a passing motorist saw smoke. By the time firefighters arrived, 23 vehicles were ablaze. While electric vehicles (EVs) are considerably safer than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, fire departments in Rhode Island are studying and preparing for how to handle EV fires, which can be trickier to put out. Fire experts state that damaged lithium-ion batteries can go into “thermal runaway,” causing them to overheat and burst into flames or even explode. EV fires can be lengthy and require water in large quantities to cool down the burning battery pack. Fire officials are urging city tow yards to store electric and hybrid vehicles separately to avoid chain reactions, and they are also being advised to unplug the car from charging stations if possible. Small lithium-ion batteries that power electric mobility devices, like e-bikes and scooters, pose even greater risks as after-market replacement batteries or chargers could trigger malicious fires. McLaughlin, the state fire marshal urged people to rely on gadgets that come with appropriate certification and to remain cautious while charging any electronic devices.

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