Electric vehicle catches fire after hitting debris on I-140

Craig Lippe was driving home from work when he ran into a large piece of metal on the highway.
Published: Jul. 21, 2023 at 6:33 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The owner of a Tesla hit a piece of debris that caused the vehicle to burst into flames while driving on I-140 Thursday afternoon.

Craig Lippe was driving home from work when he ran into a large piece of metal on the highway. He said, right after he hit the debris the car was still drivable but drivers around him had reason to be alarmed.

“A truck driver next to me opened up his window and was pointing frantically. So I pulled off into the breakdown lane. And when I got out you can see flames from underneath the car in the front,” said Lippe.

Firefighters were able to get to the scene quickly, but because the electric vehicle caught fire it took a little bit longer to put out.

Raymond Griswold is the deputy fire marshal at New Hanover County Fire Rescue. Griswold says with electric car fires, “You’re not burning combustibles like you are with normal cars.”

He says fire departments are still trying to figure out the best way to put out electric vehicle fires, and that new technology comes with new challenges.

“There are some learning curves that we are working on to figure out how to put these things out,” said Griswold.

That’s because when an electric vehicle’s battery becomes severely damaged, the immense energy it contains leaks and can create a much larger fire.

It’s a known issue, Tesla has a list of first responder guides for its different models, while companies like General Motors have special E-V emergency training for first responders.

Regardless, Lippe believes the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to electric vehicles even if his just went up in flames.

" I still love the Tesla and probably going to order another one, “ said Lippe.