A state-of-the-art electric bus spontaneously caught fire in Hamden, Connecticut, on Saturday. The Hamden Fire Department reported that it responded to an electric bus fire in the CT Transit Bus Depot on State Street and described the fire as a burning lithium ion battery.
The fire department said that electric battery fires are “difficult to extinguish due to the thermal chemical process that produces great heat and continually reignites.”
Fire officials told reporters on the scene that with a lithium ion battery fire, crews just have to let the fire burn itself out.
Two city transit workers were transported to a local hospital for precautionary treatment from smoke exposure. One firefighter was transported for medical treatment due to heat exhaustion.
Investigators were reportedly examining the site in an effort to determine the cause of the fire.
CT Transit Deputy General Manager Josh Rickman told local reporters that the bus that burst into flames was purchased in 2021.
Other mass-transit buses have unexpectedly burst into flames this year. In April, a Paris, France, transportation agency pulled 149 electric buses out of service temporarily after two buses from its fleet spontaneously ignited into flame that month.
The second of those bus fires involved an explosion on April 29 during rush hour in the famous left bank area of Paris.
Regarding a similar battery fire last year, Orange County California Fire Captain Greg Barta said that he remembers “some of our firefighters standing there shooting so much water at that electric vehicle, and it not going out.” He said that he had never seen a similar fire.
Experts have said that electric vehicle fires typically happen for two reasons. The first is vehicular collisions that damage battery cells and lead to dangerous chemical reactions involving high combustion that can spread across the entire vehicle.
The other common cause is manufacturing defects in batteries that can allow unexpected and uncontrolled chemical reactions and explosive fire.
Forbes reported that battery manufacturers are spending billions to develop “next-generation batteries” that will be less susceptible to such fires. The technology reportedly involves solid-state cells but will not likely be available until mid-decade at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has set a goal for the United States to have new car sales by 2030 to be at least 50% electric vehicles.