Every Friday, the Texas Motor Speedway hosts an event in coordination with Universal Technical Institute (UTI) called Friday Night Drags: an eighth-mile sprint where participants can earn awards and look to take home the divisional crown after six weeks of bracketing. Anyone can partake, as long as they're not driving an electric car.
As it turns out, UTI Friday Night Drags has decided to ban electric vehicles from competing in the racing festivities. Despite what many will say, event officials claim it isn't because of a perceived acceleration advantage, but because of the risk of somewhat uncontrollable battery fires.
Event organizers for the Texas Motor Speedway simply don't have the means to combat an electric vehicle fire should a catastrophic accident occur.
“The reason for the exclusion is, in the event of a crash and possible resulting fire, our emergency vehicles currently do not carry the specific equipment required to suppress EV fires," said Texas Motor Speedway VP of Public Relations David Hart to Teslarati. "As I’m sure you’re aware, conventional extinguishers are of no use in fighting lithium-ion battery fires.”
As Hart mentions, a battery fire can be much more complex to extinguish than a traditional vehicle fire. Should a lithium-ion cell be punctured in an accident and go up in flames, emergency crews face the possibility of the vehicle re-igniting for up to 48 hours after the initial event occurred. Because of this, it has become an increasingly common procedure to submerge EVs in vats of water following a fire for 24 hours or more to prevent conditions such as thermal runaway.
As recently requested by The Drive, Tesla has published statistics on vehicle fires regarding its fleet of cars. The manufacturer-supplied data shows that despite the stigma placed upon battery-powered cars, its vehicles are eight times less likely to all other fossil-fuel-powered vehicles on the road.
Hopefully, as EVs become more commonplace on the roads and first responders are better prepared to tackle the challenge of battery fires, tracks like the Texas Motor Speedway will be able to able to encourage the friendly rivalry between ICE and electric.