A vehicle at EV startup Canoo burned down on Aug. 24 after lithium-ion batteries in the car caused a fire. The local fire brigade was able to extinguish the fire and no one was injured, according to an incident report obtained by The edge.
The fire occurred in the parking lot outside Canoo’s headquarters in Torrance, California, which was once the startup’s headquarters — before it began calling Bentonville, Arkansas, home in November.
Agnes Gomes-Koizumi, Canoo’s vice president of communications, confirmed the fire happened afterward The edge comment requested. “A small fire occurred several hours after intentionally destructive testing a battery module,” Gomes said in an emailed statement, noting that the module passed the test and failed to ignite. The fire started because “someone improperly placed the module in a sealed container,” she wrote. “The box the module was placed in came under pressure and led to the incident.”
The car was not one of Canoo’s prototypes, Gomes said, but a third-party truck the company had rented or purchased. The incident report lists it as a Ford. Canoo announced a deal in October to use batteries from Panasonic subsidiary Sanyo. It is unclear who made the batteries in the fire.
Canoo aims to start production of its electric vans by the end of 2022, although it has also handed over executives along the way – including this month losing its chief technology officer and two of the five remaining co-founders.
The company joins some other EV startups in dealing with battery fires. One of Faraday Future’s pre-production vehicles caught fire in 2018. More recently, a prototype Lordstown Motors electric pickup caught fire during a road test in February 2021.
Those other fires came from battery packs that powered the respective prototype vehicles. Canoo’s fire started in the cabin of a third-party vehicle, according to the report, where lithium-ion batteries were “transported.”
After the fire was extinguished, an officer from the Los Angeles County Health Hazmat team was called to the scene to help investigate the battery explosion. The remains of the batteries were placed in a “trash can filled with water” according to Health Hazmat’s instructions. According to the Torrance Fire Department report, the fire caused an estimated $45,000 in damage, including $10,000 in property damage.
The fire service was on the scene for three and a half hours, although the report does not say how long it took to extinguish the fire. “The facility opened the next day and was functioning normally,” Gomes said.
The report states “incorrect container or storage procedure” and “[u]manned or unattended” as contributing factors to the fire. The Torrance Fire Department did not respond to multiple email requests for comment, and the LA County Health Hazmat team declined to make anyone available for an interview.