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- U.S. authorities have conducted a substantial amount of research on how to extinguish lithium-ion batteries. A report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation found that water can be used to put out a burning lithium-ion battery, although it requires copious amounts to complete the task.
One user lobbed a barrage of criticism against such vehicles in a lengthy Facebook post shared thousands of times.
"The problem with crashing any (electric vehicle) is that if you are trapped, you're dead, as it is impossible to remove victims," reads the July 22 post. "Also can't put a battery fire out. Water makes lithium burn."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook's efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
This isn’t a new line of criticism in opposition to electric vehicles. Variations of the post have surfaced elsewhere on Facebook. It takes a lot of water to extinguish an electric vehicle fire, but the suggestion that it would cause such a blaze to burn further is wrong.
Lithium-ion batteries, which are used in electric cars, have been used in smaller electronic devices, including cellphones, laptops and electric toothbrushes, for years.
All batteries, including lithium-ion batteries, use positive and negative electrodes and an electrolyte solution, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. What makes a lithium-ion battery more difficult to extinguish is its use of a highly flammable organic electrolyte, Reuters reported. U.S. authorities have conducted a substantial amount of research on how to extinguish lithium-ion batteries.
In 2013, the Fire Protection Research Foundation — sponsored by the U.S. Energy Department — found that water can be used to put out a burning lithium-ion battery. However, it requires copious amounts to complete the task. It took more than 2,600 gallons of water to extinguish one of the battery test fires carried out by the researchers. That's almost enough to fill a 12-foot round swimming pool. Further, the report found that "the use of water does not present an electrical hazard to firefighting personnel."
There are also real-world examples of how such fires were extinguished. In 2021, NBC reported that when a Tesla caught on fire after it crashed in Houston, it was extinguished with water — 28,000 gallons, to be exact.
The Facebook post’s sweeping assertion that water can’t be used to extinguish a fire from an electric vehicle is inaccurate. We rate it False.
Facebook post, July 22, 2022
Reuters, Explainer: Are lithium-ion batteries in EVs a fire hazard, Aug. 23, 2021
Federal Aviation Administration, Extinguishment of lithium batteries, May 25, 2013
CNBC, Electric vehicle fires are rare, but hard to fight, Jan. 29, 2022
NBC, Regulators warn of risks to firefighters from electrical vehicle fires, June 20, 2021
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Preventing fire or injury from small and wearable lithium battery powered devices, June 20, 2019
AAP, Electric vehicle battery fire claim is as weak as water, July 28, 2022
Fire Protection Research Foundation, Best practices for emergency response to incidents involving electric vehicles battery Hazards, June 27, 2013
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