GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — They’re lean, green and all the rage.

Close to 28 million electric vehicles are expected to be on the roadways by 2030. Electric vehicles and the batteries that power them pose a lot of new hazards for firefighters.

It’s not a major problem in Grand Rapids now, “but we anticipate that changing as the use of those batteries becomes more prevalent,” Grand Rapids Fire Department Captain Paul Mason said. 

Mason is one of several Grand Rapids firefighters who recently took part in EV emergency response training at the local Tesla Service Center.

“The engineers and the mechanics explained the car, how to get into the battery compartment, how to de-energize the vehicle and where some of the key hazard points are,” Mason said.

Those hazards have turned routine car crashes involving an EV into a much more dangerous situation.

“The electric current that the battery creates can be a problem with water and an electrocution hazard. Not only with extinguishing a fire, but on an auto extrication, cutting into the car to free a trapped person. That becomes a very big hazard,” Mason said.

Another danger are fires caused by the batteries: They burn much hotter and the fires are unpredictable. 

A Tesla was recently towed to a Sacramento, California salvage yard after a wreck recently and started burning.

Firefighters used 4,500 gallons of water to put it out.

Most car fires take about 1,000 gallons.

“The traditional, spraying water on the fire doesn’t work because the batteries burn too hot,” Mason said. “Getting to the burning material is more difficult because the batteries are encased.”

It’s not just EV’s on four wheels. Lithium-ion powered e-bikes and scooters have also become both popular and dangerous.

While battery fires involving smaller vehicles may be easier to put out, often times the bikes and scooters are stored inside homes and apartments.

“It kicks off a very black, toxic smoke and a fire spread very rapidly. It’s a big life hazard,” Mason said. “One of the keys to putting out the fires is smothering the fire. Keeping air from getting to the fire.”

GRFD firefighters are looking at ways departments across the country are trying to put out the fires. One suggestion is to dig a hole, fill it with water and drown the EV until the fire goes out.

“Other cities, they have an actual shipping container, and they’ll winch the car up into the shipping container and seal it off. And then move to … an empty lot somewhere where the smoke won’t be a hazard,” Mason said. “We’ll do whatever we can to try to keep the city safe and extinguish these fires. But we’re going to have our hands full in the future.”