In my conversion I used eight Tesla Model S battery modules. On June 30th 2021 our converted Volvo Amazon wagon spontaneously caught fire when parked.
Recap of June 30th 2021
The car had been charging the day before and was still parked at the spot with electricity.
On June 30th around 7:55 someone came to our tent
Your car on fire!
We rushed to the car, white smoke was already coming out of the hood and I heard popping noises. From research I knew this was the sound of burning lithium batteries so building on images of Tesla’s that had caught fire I knew it was likely to burn down completely. So we started taking all stuff we could out of the car.
When the firemen arrived, the commander said:
We are going to do everything we can so save your car.
Which they did. They cooled the front battery box from the outside and within 30 minutes after the fire started it was extinguished. At that point there was nothing left to burn anymore inside the front battery box. I worked with them explaining cutting off the main service disconnect was the best way to open the box and put water inside. Thanks for your great work!
While the stainless steel battery box contained the fire very well and it was put extinguished relatively quickly the damaged was significant.
Even in the interior there was a lot of damage. Not only by the fire, also from extinguishing powder as someone tried to help putting the lithium fire out with that.
There are two types of updates in this section, fire related and about the teardown to prepare the car for its rebuild.
Fire related updates
I wrote some (mini-)updates related to the fire during and after our trip in Sweden.
Check out all fire related blogposts.
Teardown related updates
Some small updates of the teardown process.
Check out all teardown related blogposts.
Root cause analysis
In June 2023, two years after the fire I shared my findings and thoughts on what can have caused the fire. I’ve published it in a lengthy blogpost:
Initially the car was not declared a total-loss and was transported back to The Netherlands. The specialist from the insurance agreed it had started in the front battery box.
Though I will probably never find out for sure, I have found peace of mind and will move on. The good news is there still is a car to rebuild.
Don’t want to create too much overlap with the success factors mentioned in chapter 13, epilogue of my “What caused my electric car fire?” blogpost.
In addition and to some extend repetition of the things mentioned there I want to list a few:
- Using 2 mm stainless steel for the battery boxes payed off. Think that plus the fact that I used vent valves are among the reasons why there now is a car to rebuild. Of course given the fact that the fire department arrived so quickly.
- Lithium batteries are dangerous and my gut feeling always kept telling me to move away from the modified Tesla battery modules as soon as alternatives started to emerge years later. In retrospect I should have paid more attention to that feeling.
- As a pioneer you sometimes have to learn things the hard way ……