I’m not sure how much you keep up with the news of the British Parking Garage community, but there was a huge fire in London’s Luton Airport, the fifth-largest airport in the UK. The fire was quite a massive conflagration; the fire resulted in the “partial structural collapse” of the parking deck, and an estimated 1,500 vehicles were damaged, with hundreds outright destroyed. It was a pretty horrific fire, but thankfully nobody was killed, and it’s been put out. What’s been especially interesting about all of this has been the online reaction to the cause of the fire, which fire officials have reported as being a diesel Land Rover. Specifically, there’s been a strange sort-of conspiracy theory that the car that started the fire was really an electric vehicle, but the media is lying. And then there’s others who claim the media has been pushing that it was an EV when it wasn’t. It’s all kind of ridiculous, but I guess that’s where society is right now. Oy.
Now, the skepticism about a diesel car starting the fire does have some roots in reality. Diesel fuel, unlike gasoline, is really difficult to combust. A lit match thrown in a puddle of diesel will go out. That’s why diesel engines have such massive compression ratios: the only way to get diesel to combust is to put it under enormous pressure. So it’s not too unexpected to find people surprised that the cause of the fire was a diesel vehicle.
That said, there is actual footage of the car, which, based on a registration plate lookup seems to be a 2014 Range Rover Sport TDV6 SE, which has a 3-liter diesel engine:
— Sam356345 (@sam35634560605) October 11, 2023
The Bedford Fire and Rescue service have confirmed that this is the car suspected to have started the fire. From The Independent:
“We don’t believe it was an electric vehicle,” Andrew Hopkinson, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said.
“It’s believed to be diesel-powered, at this stage all subject to verification. And then that fire has quickly and rapidly spread.”
For whatever reason, there’s a surprising number of people online who seem absolutely unwilling to accept this explanation, seemingly hell-bent on the idea that an EV and only an EV could have started this fire:
Luton Airport fire started by the Lithium battery component of a diesel hybrid, yet media just state "diesel car."
This is why you can't trust the media…. pic.twitter.com/iCyvgyWwEn
— Rob Boyd, Esq (@AvonandsomerRob) October 11, 2023
There’s a lot of posts like this one, with many speculating that the Range Rover had to be a hybrid with a lithium battery, and many more questioning the motives of the press, fire department, government, and pretty much anyone with a functioning metabolism who isn’t currently blaming an EV:
The Luton Airport fire doesn’t look like it was started by a diesel. It doesn’t look like it – and fuel oil is really quite hard to light. It’s remarkable that BBC journalists felt the need to make that claim, which firefighters are also denying. Why? pic.twitter.com/CvUugxFEkG
— Joe Rich (@joerichlaw) October 11, 2023
And, of course, everyone is now an expert on hybrids and fires and electrical engineering:
LUTON AIRPORT FIRE
-Combustion type looks like a Lithium-ion battery fire.
-Range Rover Hybrid Evoque uses a 48 V Lithium-ion battery
-This means it can be a Diesel car but the Lithium-ion battery in the hybrid model still started the firepic.twitter.com/tjejL7MrcL
— Robin Monotti (@robinmonotti) October 11, 2023
I’m not sure I’ve seen anything quite like this for something like a parking deck fire. Sure, diesel is an unlikely fuel to start a fire, but it’s not like that’s all that’s in a car that can start fires and is flammable. Even without an EV or hybrid’s lithium-ion batteries, a combustion car’s 12V electrical system can certainly start a fire, and all sorts of things inside a car – fabrics, plastics, seat foam, and more – can go up in flames if properly motivated.
Yes, EV fires are a real problem and they can be much more challenging to deal with and extinguish, no question, but it’s not like combustion cars can’t catch on fire, because of course they can. It’s not common for a parked diesel to combust, but it’s hardly impossible.
I’m not the only one to notice this strange determination to blame an EV; this guy made a whole video, which has almost 250,000 views already, and suggests that the reaction of all these people somehow spells doom for the EV market:
I think this is pretty hyperbolic thinking, and the reality is the vast majority of people either have much more rational, hypobolic thoughts or just don’t really care. What I really don’t understand is the strange eagerness that a shocking number of people have to blame this on EVs. Is everything a conspiracy now? I mean, look at some of these reactions to the fire:
Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with us?
It’s all very strange, and, I think, this phenomenon is new in the world of cars. There’s been controversies over various other transitions of the automotive world, from people’s reluctance to wear seat belts or mistrust of airbags or similar things, but I’m not sure I’ve seen so much distrust and hostility to a particular type of car as we’re seeing here, as electric vehicles become more common.
I think we can all agree that car fires, started from whatever kind of car, are bad, and we should do all we can to minimize them. That seems like a pretty safe position. Anything beyond that and I think we’re ending up in some really strange and unsettling territories.
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