A 2022 Tesla Model 3 burst into flame in Newark, New Jersey, earlier this month. A first responder leaked pictures and videos to the press.

The driver reported hitting something on the road. Shortly thereafter, the car started showing critical warnings. The driver pulled over, notified authorities, and got out safely before the battery pack began smoking and eventually burst into flames.

This incident prompts memories of a vulnerability in the Tesla Model S when it was first released. In that case, multiple vehicles caught fire after hitting road debris. This caused the NHTSA to launch an official inquiry.

Thankfully, Tesla addressed the issue by adding a titanium plate and an aluminum deflector under the vehicles. Since then, there have been very few Model S fires due to debris strikes.

It’s important to note that fires caused by debris strikes are not exclusive to Tesla vehicles. Any electric vehicle (EV) can experience a catastrophic battery failure if impacted under the right conditions. In fact, there was an incident involving an Xpeng P7 last year for the same reason.

It was a huge challenge for the fire department to extinguish the Model 3 fire. After firefighters initially put out the flames, the vehicle started smoking and then reignited. It did this multiple times before the fire was finally put out.

Watch the video below to see the Model 3’s wreckage.

The Model 3 exhibited a phenomenon known as thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is when lithium-ion battery cells enter a self-heating, oxygen-creating state. This causes the battery pack to reignite until there’s nothing left to burn.

Thermal runaway doesn’t occur with conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. ICE fires stay extinguished once put out.

Some battery chemistries are more prone to thermal runaway. For instance, lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA) and nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) cells are at greater risk for thermal runaway compared to lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries. This is because NCA and NCM cells have lower ignition points, according to InsideEVs.

The fact that the ruined Model 3 likely used NCA cells contributed to the difficulty in extinguishing the fire.

While EVs are often wrongly believed to be more prone to fires, statistics show that combustion vehicles have significantly more fire incidents compared to EVs. However, as older EVs become more common, the frequency of fires may increase.

In summary, while this isolated incident raises concerns, it’s unlikely to be indicative of a widespread problem. EV fires caused by debris strikes can happen, but precautions have been taken to minimize such risks.

Image Sources: Breitbart and Commentator, https://shorturl.at/bEV19