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(Climate Science) – On 10 October a fire broke out at the Terminal 2 car park at London Luton Airport (which is located 32 miles from central London). It raged for nearly a day and resulted in the complete shut-down of the airport causing massive disruption for travellers. By the time firefighters extinguished the blaze it became apparent that around 1,500 vehicles, mostly parked there by holidaymakers, had become burnt-out wrecks. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured, but the economic cost going forward will be colossal.
CCTV footage suggests that the fire broke out in a parked diesel SUV – an unusual event (though, interestingly, there was no thick black smoke as one might have expected from a diesel fire, so the origin of the fire is contested). But one of the reasons the fire spread with such intensity was that a number of electric cars caught fire. Notoriously, once a lithium-ion battery catches fire it is almost impossible to extinguish it until all its chemical components have been consumed. These unstoppable chemical fires are called “thermal runaways” by the cognoscenti as they can sustain themselves without a supply of oxygen. They emit toxic gases including hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen fluoride, so firefighters require special gear when they tackle them.
In the past couple of years, two container ships carrying thousands of EVs have gone up in flames. A fire on board car carrier Felicity Ace in February 2022 led to the vessel sinking in the Atlantic, along with its cargo of 4,000 vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries were cited as a factor in keeping the fire ablaze. And in July this year, the Fremantle Highway cargo ship caught fire in the North Sea. It was alleged that batteries in EVs on board had…