A Gallup survey last July revealed Americans’ confidence in U.S. institutions reached a new record low. Not surprisingly, Congress ranked at the bottom, with only 7% of Americans saying they had an abundance of faith in the legislative body. The presidency ranked higher, with 23% expressing considerable confidence.

If Americans understood how little thought and planning Biden Administration officials have put into their accelerated efforts to force Americans to buy electric vehicles, I’m confident faith in the presidency would rank near zero and there would be bipartisan calls for the resignations of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and EPA chief Michael Regan. It’s unimaginable anyone could think otherwise after reading this story by CNBC’s Michael Wayland, an exemplary piece of enterprise reporting and analysis and a rare instance of a mainstream reporter writing critically about electric vehicles.

Wayland filed a request through Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act from the police department in Dearborn, MI, where Ford Motor Co. is based and obtained footage and recordings of efforts to extinguish a February 4th inferno resulting from an electric F-150 Lightning pickup catching fire, torching two other “tightly packed” pickups. Wayland reported that the F-150 Lightning fire occurred while it was charging in a holding lot during a pre-delivery quality check and was caused by an internal short circuit due to a manufacturing issue when cells in the battery were at a high state of charge. Ford said its engineers determined there was no evidence of a charging fault.

The first responder recordings show that police officers responding to the blaze described the vehicles as “engulfed in flames” and were concerned they could “blow up.” Ford’s Lightnings are outfitted with lithium-ion batteries, which can rage out of control when they catch fire. The first responders were concerned about how much water was needed to extinguish EV fires and wondered whether a special foam would be required. They also questioned the viability and safety of electric vehicles.

“We’re not putting this f—er out. Look at it,” said one responding officer. “They have to put like a whole f—ing lake on it to put them out.”

It’s unbelievable that Ford didn’t have the good sense to work with Dearborn’s police and fire departments and have an emergency plan in place about how to extinguish F-150 Lightning fires given the very real possibility of that happening.

In March of last year, a ship known as the Felicity Ace, carrying about 4,000 vehicles including Bentleys and Porsches, sank about 253 miles off the Azores after some of the vehicles caught fire. The Felicity Ace was carrying 281 EVs; although it isn’t known for certain that an EV sparked the fire, the ship’s captain was quoted as saying that the lithium-ion batteries of the electric vehicles “were keeping the fire alive.”

It wasn’t the first known instance of an EV catching fire on a ship. In 2010, a Nissan that had been converted into an electric vehicle caught fire aboard the MS Pearl of Scandinavia as it was travelling from Oslo to Copenhagen. Fortunately, the fire was contained.

EV proponents argue that statistically gas engine vehicles are more prone to inferno eruptions than electric vehicles. EVs are about 0.3 percent likely to ignite, versus a 1.05 percent likelihood for gas cars, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the National Transportation Safety Board compiled by Auto Insurance EZ last year. Indeed, Ford last year recalled more than 100,000 of its gas engine SUVs and trucks because of fire risks.

“There’s a gasoline fire in this country every three minutes in a gas vehicle,” Andrew Klock, senior manager of education and development at the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit that offers free EV training for firefighters across the country, told the Boston Globe.

The statistics are possibly misleading because there are far fewer electric vehicles on the road than the gas engine variety.

Graham Conway/LinkedIn

“It is still too early to make any conclusions about EVs and spontaneity of fires. I just don’t think we have the sample size of data or the reporting structure for fires to say with any certainty,” Graham Conway, principal engineer at the Southwest Research Institute, told Forbes. “What is clear is that the fire is more difficult to deal with, the energy release during the exotherm of the electrolyte takes a lot of cooling to extinguish.”

What’s also clear is that when local fire departments are called to extinguish a gas engine vehicle fire, they know exactly what to do as they’ve had a century of practice. Given the Biden Administration wants to mandate that two-thirds of auto sales be electric by 2032, common sense dictates that efforts would be in place to ensure U.S. fire departments are properly trained to extinguish EV fires and are sharing best practices.

That’s not the case.  

“You’re now dealing with a vehicle that doesn’t work like anything else you’ve been taught,” David Dalrymple, a volunteer firefighter in New Jersey who owns a first response training and consulting business called RoadWay Rescue, told CNBC. “It’s a totally different animal. … The primary goal is to cool it down to take away that chemical reaction.”

Dalrymple, who also serves on a Society of Automotive Engineers committee focusing on EV fire issues and standards, noted some other countries allow first responders to look up what hazardous materials are in a vehicle based on the license plate.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. isn’t one of these countries. In fact, only Virginia has mandated that firefighters must be trained to extinguish electric vehicle fires, but they have until December 2025 to complete their training.

Wayland also makes clear that GM is the far more responsible company when it comes to electric vehicle fire risks.

GM issued a news release last June disclosing that it was expanding its efforts to educate public safety, fire and emergency service providers throughout the US and Canada as EV sales grow. The release wasn’t written in the company’s customary PR gobbledygook and reflected a genuine sincerity.

“Our primary goal is to provide key information directly to first and second responders,” said Joe McLaine, GM global product safety and systems engineer, and leader of the training effort. “This training offers unique material and hands-on experiences that can help increase responders’ awareness of procedures to help maintain safety while interacting with EVs during the performance of their duties.”

GM website photo and caption/

Ford told CNBC that the company “took part in an information-sharing session on how to handle battery fires in summer 2022 with members of the Dearborn fire department.” Participating in an “information sharing” session is a far cry from the hands-on training GM claims to provide.

Wayland notes that Ford’s Emergency Response Guide offers no meaningful procedures to extinguish a Ford Lightning fire other than “LARGE amounts of water” or using a “Class ABC powder-type extinguisher to contain and smother the flames.”

Wayland also reports the guide recommends that Ford Lightnings be “stored outside or at least 50 feet away from other objects.” I’ve never seen this reported before and wonder how many Lightning buyers know not to park their pickups in their garages.

In yet another example of potential EV risks that the Biden Administration doesn’t appear to have considered, let alone addressed, the British Parking Association (BPA) recently warned that as EVs gain popularity, garages built in the 60s and 70s could collapse because they weren’t built to withstand the significantly heavier weight of the vehicles. As an example of the weight differential, the battery of GM’s electric Hummer weighs as much as a Honda Civic.

“I don’t want to be too alarmist, but there definitely is the potential for some of the early car parks in poor condition to collapse,” said structural engineer Chris Whapple. “Operators need to be aware of electric vehicle weights and get their car parks assessed from a strength point of view and decide if they need to limit weight.”

Whapples can’t be dismissed as a nervous Nellie. In January 2020, a 3,000 vehicle, five-story garage at Stavanger Airport in Norway collapsed after flames from a car fire on the ground floor spread throughout the structure. The smoke was so thick that flights were grounded, and nearby hotels evacuated. It took 60-plus firefighters more than six hours to contain the blaze.

Although a diesel engine vehicle was believed responsible for the initial fire, EVs likely contributed to the inability of firefighters to contain the ensuing inferno because Norway has the largest concentration of electric cars per capita in the world.

Garage sign in Charleston, SC.

Earlier this week one worker was killed, and five others were injured, when a garage in New York’s Financial District collapsed for undetermined reasons. The New York Post reported the parking garage building had active violations dating back to 2003, but was not under construction.

Some New York garages are so tightly packed that car jockeys must walk on the roofs of parked vehicles to exit the structures. An EV fire could prove catastrophic because it would be near impossible for fire trucks to enter these structures.

Outdoor NYC parking garage.

Every day it becomes increasingly obvious that the Biden Administration’s EV conversion plans are predicated on false or overly optimistic assumptions. Rather than mitigate environmental harm, the ill-conceived plans and targets might cause more environmental harm, particularly in developing countries. The ineptitude shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was responsible for a litany of green energy failures when she served as governor of Michigan. Transportation Secretary has no meaningful experience to serve as Transportation Secretary and he’s clueless about some of the causes he feigns holding most dear. EPA chief Michael Regan has never run a business.

Kudos to CNBC and Michael Wayland for their stellar reporting and analysis.

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