Spontaneously caught fire when parked

Tesla battery fire

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

Electric Volvo night before the fire
Peaceful and quiet, evening before
Volvo Amazon wagon damaged fire
8,5 hours later heavily damaged

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!

Tent close to the water
Our tent was a bit further away close to the water.

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.

Firemen at EV fire

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!

Burned front battery box
Burned front battery box
Firemen after the fire
Firemen after the fire

While the stainless steel battery box contained the fire very well and it was put extinguished relatively quickly the damaged was significant.

From a distance it did not even look that bad. The tires even still held air.
Fire and extinguishing powder damage
But in fact there was a lot of damage.

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.

One year ago our electric Volvo caught fire

One year ago on June 30th our 1967 Volvo Amazon wagon EV conversion spontaneously caught fire during our travels in Sweden. A project I worked on for almost six years to achieve OEM feature level with a classic appearance. Due to the lack of resources and busy supporting others doing conversions as EVcreate I have not been able to make much progress on rebuilding it. Nor have I further information on the exact cause. Intend so share more soon and speed up the process for bringing her back on the road. Donations / support is still welcome.

Actually it is a miracle there is so much left of the car

Actually it is quite a miracle that there is so much left of the car. The leather interior seems to be able to even handle the impact of the powder extinguisher quite well. In the end I found a specialized cleaning company to get rid of the remains of the powder.

Volvo back home delivered by Jansen Restorations

On October 26th last year the Voltvo came back home. Delivered by Jansen Restorations, video by Saskia, music by the kids. The first couple of seconds one would not even say it is that badly damaged.

Car has not been released by the insurance

Currently (October 1st) the car has not been released by the insurance. Have not been able to do any investigations. And besides the garage is a mess. So until now just had coffee and developed some hypothesis and plans.

Today exactly three months ago the Volvo caught fire

Hi everybody! Today it is exactly three months ago that the Volvo caught fire. Seems like a good time to go back online. I will start sharing the story of our trip. Spoiler: no happy ending.

Took a while before I had the courage to visit the car

Took a while before I had the courage to go to Jansen Restorations and face the car again. To be honest I had made it less worse in my mind over the weeks so it was quite a shock. Significantly more damage to the interior than I had hoped for.

Check out all fire related blogposts.

Teardown related updates

Some small updates of the teardown process.

Emptied front battery box to recycling

Today I dropped off the old emptied front battery box at the recycling. It did its job very well and to a large extent contained the fire so there now is a car to rebuild. This box will not be part of that nor will Tesla battery modules.

Cleaning after battery box and motor removal

So after removing some more burned bits and pieces the front battery box and motor are out. Looks like the motor itself is still OK. Started cleaning the car.

The 5 rear Tesla batteries are out

It took a couple of hot days in August during our holidays to take the rear batteries out. They were assembled outside the car with the cover last in line. With some wrestling and patience I was able to take all out from above.

EV Peripherals controller dead

Took the heater and dash out. Unfortunately my EV Peripherals controller as well as the OLEDs in the speedo have not survived the fire. It hurts, but I just take out everything and throw it away. Even all cables and wires. Don’t want gremlins due to fire extinguishing powder.

Safety checks and taking the BMS master out

First measured 140V with protective gloves. Cutting the cable into the front box removed that potential. Next took and readout the BMS master. No new insights.

First disassembly steps and first bright spot

First disassembly steps. It’s a dirty job but needed to get to a clean starting point for rebuild.

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.

Lessons learned

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:

Burned Tesla battery cell
Burned Tesla battery cell
  • 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 ……

Next chapter! Rebuilding…..


OldVolvo is a classic Volvo hobby blog by Lars Rengersen.

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