There’s a curious sight on the frozen surface of Lake Champlain’s Shelburne Bay in Vermont right now: the torched husk of a Tesla Model X.
The owners had taken their Model X ice fishing last Sunday, reports Seven Days. The driver told firefighters and police that he hit a rock somewhere on the way to the lake in nearby South Burlington, and while he didn’t see any damage when he stopped alongside the road to check it out, he thought he something smelled strange. Later, they started hearing funny noises coming from the vehicle. Around 8:00 p.m., after they had made it onto the frozen lake, the Model X caught fire—starting with a hiss.
By the time firefighters arrived at the scene around 8:15 p.m., there was little they could do. Seven Days writes of the blaze:
The blaze was hundreds of yards from the nearest access point at the Shelburne Bay Boat Ramp and, while the ice was thick, “It’s nothing we’re gonna throw a 50,000-pound fire truck on,” [Shelburne Fire Chief Jerry Ouimet] said.
Ouimet called in the Charlotte Fire Department, which responded with an ATV equipped with a portable pump and hose, but the electric-powered SUV was already beyond saving.
“There was no way we could get anything out there,” Ouimet told Seven Days. “As a firefighter, I’ve never felt so helpless before.”
Thankfully, the occupants got out in time, and no one was hurt.
The cause of the fire remains unknown, however, the most plausible theory is that the rock struck the Tesla’s battery pack, which rides low in the car. Previous Teslas have burst into flame after their lithium-ion batteries have been struck with sufficient force, andPopular Mechanics notes that lithium-ion cells quickly discharge their energy in the form of heat when damaged, leading to a fire.
That kind of fire spreads rapidly and can be notoriously difficult to get back under control, often ending up as the all-over inferno as you see here. Tesla Motors Club forum member GreenMtnM3 and his family saw the Model X as it was burning, and reported seeing a blazing fire with numerous small explosions going off, just like we’ve seen in other rapid-spreading Tesla battery fires.
(That being said, my favorite Tesla Motors Club forum theory as to what happened here definitely involves the Lake Champlain Monster.)
The Drive has reached out to Tesla to see if the company has an explanation for how this could have happened, and will update the post if we receive a response.
As for why it wouldn’t just melt through the ice and sink, Jalopnik pointed out that the source of a fire’s heat is right above it—not beside or below it. So, while the car melted into the ice a little bit, there wasn’t enough heat below the fire to melt through the ice.
If you’re worried about yet more harmful battery chemicals ending up in our precious waterways when Spring hits, never fear—the Shelburne Police Department posted on Facebook this morning that plans are being made to remove the burnt car. In other words, it won’t be a local monument for long.
Source: The Drive