LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — A recent vehicle fire on a Lancaster County highway is showcasing the new challenges fire departments and towing companies now face as more and more electric vehicles hit the road.
It happened Monday night on Route 222 North in Manheim Township.
A trailer carrying several cars went up in flames, causing two electric vehicles on board to catch fire.
It's believed the tractor-trailer had a malfunction which started the fire.
“Dealing with the EVs is challenging for our industry right now because there’s very little information we’re getting from vehicle manufacturers. It’s something we’re learning as we go," said Wayne McDade, owner of Wayne's Towing & Recovery, who posted photos of the fire's aftermath on the business's Facebook page.
Electric vehicles also present challenges to responding firefighters.
Manheim Township's fire chief, Scott Little, said electric vehicle fires need more water to extinguish.
“There are additional resources involved with using multiple fire trucks, mutual aid, to take care of the problem and then you throw in our decline in volunteers and where are the resources going to come from?" he asked.
They also require new protective gear like special gloves and more training.
“There’s a lot of additional time in combatting an electrical vehicle fire and at the end of the day that comes back on us as the first responders that deal with it," said Chief Little.
With electric vehicles, the danger doesn’t stop once the flames are out.
“We have to continue to monitor it," said Chief Little. "The recommendation is 45 minutes, then you can release the car to the tow company.”
After they were cleared from the road, Wayne's Towing brought the electric vehicles back to one of their lots, where they had to be put into containment bins.
The towing company has to monitor the cars for 30 days, in case they reignite.
"We're checking for odors, noises, any types of leaks and we’re also using thermal imaging cameras to check temperatures throughout the car," explained McDade.
On Tuesday night, the Tesla that was involved in the fire was still functioning, 24 hours after it was burnt to a crisp.
“The subject expert that we spoke to when we did the risk analysis on the Tesla told us the likelihood of the Tesla reigniting within the next seven days is very high," said McDade.
He said it all adds up to more time and resources being put in by the towing companies.
McDade also expects insurance agencies will eventually catch on.
“We expect to see that come in the near future with insurance companies where they’re going to be elevating rates for tow companies doing the storage of EV vehicles," he said.
The tow companies will then have to pass that cost onto customers, translating into bigger bills for EV owners.
“It’s something tow companies are needing to charge for as well because our exposure is higher and the amount of time it takes to deal with these EV vehicles, it takes a lot of time," said McDade.
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