Tesla Megapack Fire Highlights More Concerns for Big EV Batteries

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More and more states are working to implement policies that encourage automakers and consumers to embrace electric vehicles (EVs). Cleaner transportation will be a key part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combatting climate change.
Car manufacturers are working to develop EV battery technology to improve EV range and charging times. But the bigger the batteries, the more issues that could potentially arise.
A recent Tesla Megapack fire is a good example of what can go wrong as automakers work to produce EV batteries with higher capacity.
Red Tesla logo on a Megapack energy storage product
Tesla Megapacks recently caught on fire in Australia | Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

What is a Tesla Megapack?

A Tesla Megapack is a massive battery energy storage system. The Megapack is one of the best-known “big batteries,” and the technology is meant to power large energy projects. Neoen, a renewable energy giant, owns and operates the Megapack battery which it developed with Tesla Energy, Cimic Group’s UGL, and AusNet.
Tesla has yet to disclose details about the types of cells it uses in Megapacks or which suppliers the brand gets them from. Several competitors also produce energy storage systems, including Powin Energy, LG Energy Solutions, Northvolt, and SK Innovation.

The Tesla Megapack fire in Australia

On August 2, a Tesla Megapack fire started at the Victorian Big Battery in Southeast Australia, as reported by CNBC. Fire crews remained on site the following day to ensure that damaged equipment would not reignite and to investigate the cause of the fire.
The fire first occurred within the 300-megawatt system in Geelong, Victoria. About 150 firefighters from the local Fire Rescue Victoria and the CFA responded. Over 30 fire trucks and support vehicles arrived to help contain the fire.
When the fire was finally contained, only two Megapacks of the approximately 210 that make up the system were affected. According to CNBC, Tesla’s Megapack fire shows how critical it is to solve big battery issues.
Experts have suggested several methods to improve the safety of large energy storage systems. This includes enlisting the help of fire and rescue teams early on in designing and installing the systems.
Developers of utility-scale batteries should consider offering a way for fire crews, owners, and operators to see what’s happening inside the system at all times. Additionally, the systems should be designed to allow first responders to maneuver around and aim a hose.

How are EV batteries impacting electric car adoption?

Automakers may start to see more issues as they try to improve EV batteries and range. The Megapack and electric car batteries both rely on lithium-ion. The Chevy Bolt saw major recalls related to their batteries catching fire. A Tesla Model S fire in Houston required seven hours and 30,000 gallons of water to put out.
These potential safety hazards will need to be resolved to convince more consumers to switch to EVs. The lack of EV charging infrastructure is also a major obstacle that prevents consumers from going electric. There’s a lot of work to do before EVs can achieve widespread adoption.
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