Yes, You Can ‘Fix’ a Flooded Electric Car by Covering It in Rice
They tried it so you don’t have to buy a broken EV, or all that rice.
If you've gotten your electronics wet before, I'm sure someone has told you to put them in some rice. While common, that saying is more of an old wives' tale than useful advice, especially when it comes to salt water. But that hasn't stopped people from trying anyway.
One of those people is YouTuber Rich Benoit. Better known by his moniker Rich Rebuilds, the internet personality has made a name for himself by ICE-swapping Teslas and advocating for the right to repair. Recently, Rich purchased a hurricane flood-damaged Audi E-Tron and is attempting to restore it to drivable condition, and that all starts with 4,200 pounds of rice.
Rich recently purchased the Audi from a Copart auction. It was listed as inoperable, meaning that it doesn't "run" (as much as a battery-powered car can) or drive. Electronics mixed with salt water will do that.
The $110,000 car had just under 2,600 miles when it was reported as a total loss, which makes it a steal considering that the final bid appears to have been around $56,000. But a quick look at the car shows why it was so cheap: water stains can be seen on the seat backs and even on the window glass. It has every indication of flood damage.
After getting the Audi back to his garage and spending hours attempting to manually open the frunk, Rich and his team were able to jump the vehicle with a 12-volt booster pack. They found various faults related to the high-voltage battery and cooling systems, plus even more malfunctions across multiple CAN gateways, including ABS, HVAC, central electric, brake booster, chassis control, telematics, the high-voltage battery, driver assist systems, and much more. In short: the car is borked.
Maybe the car was still wet and they could just dry it out? That was the running theory, at least, and didn't seem like such a bad idea considering the price of replacing various components could run in the tens of thousands of dollars otherwise. Rich considered using silica gel to do this, but it was way too expensive. Rice seemed to be the next best thing.
Jason Fenske from Engineering Explained was tapped to explain why this would—or wouldn't—be such a great idea. He ultimately suggested that Rich use a dehumidifier instead, but that wouldn't be as fun, now would it? So instead, Rich decided to build a gigantic frame to hold around 4,200 pounds of expired rice and use that to dry the car out.
Now, rice technically will absorb moisture, unless of course it is already saturated. But it will also absorb water from the atmosphere, which means that the Audi had to be enclosed. So the team wrapped the car in a tarp, dumped in the rice, and let the electric behemoth sit for a few days while they crossed their fingers in anticipation.
Rich and his team then unwrapped the car and vacuumed out the rice. To everyone's surprise, the car not only powered on but also began to move under its own power, albeit with "every [fault] code known to man" displayed on the dashboard. But hey, that's progress, right?
Now, it's all but impossible to verify if the rice actually helped in this case, especially since salt water tends to corrode electronics almost instantly when it comes into contact with circuitry. Either way, there is still a lot of work to be done for the E-Tron to be in near-factory condition. Rich's example should speak to why buying a flood-damaged car is never a good idea, let alone a flood-damaged EV.
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