Back in February, Ford temporarily paused F-150 Lightning production due to a fire at one of the automaker’s holding lots in Dearborn, Michigan. On Thursday, CNBC posted footage retrieved via a Freedom of Information Act request from the Dearborn Police Department showing the blaze, as it engulfed three of the electric pickups.
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The fire forced Ford to halt Lightning manufacturing for five weeks as it worked with battery supplier SK On to address the root of the incident. In early March when the automaker resumed production, Ford said it “quickly identified the cause,” that it was “rare” and not related to any production-wide design flaw, and that no vehicles already delivered to customers were at risk.
The video highlights the unique challenges of fighting electric vehicle fires, which are notoriously difficult to put out because of a phenomenon known as “thermal runaway.” When an EV battery goes up in flames, its massive stores of energy essentially keep feeding the fire. Starving the blaze of oxygen with carbon dioxide foam doesn’t work, because it’s not oxygen that’s fueling it. “Lots and lots of water,” as Vox put it in a recent story, is really all firefighters have at their disposal. And even then, a battery can reignite all by itself hours later, due to heat still trapped within the cells.
Workers, authorities, Ford and everyone involved should be relieved that the fire didn’t spread beyond two additional trucks in the holding lot. “Let’s hope it doesn’t blow up,” one officer could be heard saying at 3:40 p.m. local time on the way to the scene. “The smoke is clear as day.”