The Lucid Air Didn’t Start That Huge Car Carrier Fire: Report

The fire department claims the fire began in the tow truck, not in the battery of the luxury EV.

byJames Gilboy| PUBLISHED May 10, 2022 3:15 PM
The Lucid Air Didn’t Start That Huge Car Carrier Fire: Report
Facebook | Highway to Hell.
Share

On April 22, a truck hauling a trailer with a 2022 Lucid Air onboard burned to the ground at a rest stop, reigniting the debate over the safety of transporting electric vehicles. At the time, it was unclear where the fire had originated, though that didn't stop some from declaring with certainty that the cause had been either the EV or the truck transporting it. Now though, we know for sure the Lucid wasn't the culprit, as determined by a fire department incident report acquired by Carscoops.

The report, which combined a responder's personal account with eyewitness testimonies and security footage, reportedly stated that the car carrier reached the site of the fire (a rest stop) at approximately 10:00 pm. While inside the stop, the driver noticed smoke coming from their truck's engine bay, and at 10:38 exited the truck to investigate. They found smoke coming from the engine's intake but saw no flames, and their dry chemical fire extinguisher failed to stem the source. The driver retrieved their wallet and dog from the cab before calling 911, and not a second too soon, as the truck was reportedly consumed by flames within three minutes.

The flames quickly reached and overtook the trailer, which housed a one-of-520 Lucid Air Dream Edition. The heat sent its huge 118-kilowatt-hour battery pack into thermal runaway, allowing its cells to ignite on their own. This meant that despite seemingly extinguishing the fire, responders reportedly heard sounds like fireworks as the battery cells burst, rekindling the blaze. Eventually, they employed a ramp truck to extract the burned-out EV from the trailer, propping it at an angle to improve airflow on the battery to cool it. Directing hoses onto the pack, however, wasn't possible due to the carbon fiber skidplate until the battery ultimately burned through it.

Responders ended up moving the car into a roll-off dumpster, which would contain the fire if it reignited, though it was not used to douse or submerge the vehicle as previously rumored. Extinguishing the fire reportedly consumed 8,000 gallons of water in all, and was complicated by the incident not occurring near a fire hydrant. Due to the extreme heat of combusting lithium-ion batteries (exceeds 3,600º Fahrenheit according to Envista Forensics) the rest stop itself sustained significant damage. Its siding (reportedly aluminum) warped and its windows cracked despite being 55 feet away.

While no injuries were sustained, the incident serves to reaffirm that EV fires are a scenario most emergency responders aren't yet ready to handle, for a lack of training or specialized EV firefighting equipment. They may be rarer than hybrid or ICE fires according to AutoinsuranceEZ, but their severity and our under-developed systems for managing them mean they're a problem not to be downplayed.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com