Almost anything goes at the weekly Friday Night Drags event organized by the Texas Motor Speedway. You can enter to race in a Lamborghini Aventador S, in a classic Mini, or anything in between as long as you follow basic rules like wearing a helmet — and not showing up on track day in an electric car. The venue’s owners recently banned EVs from competing.
The Texas Motor Speedway stressed that it’s not afraid that electric cars will beat gasoline-powered models. It would welcome the competition between, say, a Tesla Model S and a Mercedes-AMG E63. It decided to stop allowing electric cars onto its drag strip due to safety concerns. If one catches fire, which isn’t unheard of, the Speedway doesn’t have the equipment required to put it out. Gasoline- and diesel-powered cars go up in flames too, but those fires are easier to extinguish.
“The reason for the exclusion is, in the event of a crash and possible resulting fire, our emergency vehicles currently do not carry the specific equipment required to suppress EV fires. As I’m sure you’re aware, conventional extinguishers are of no use in fighting a lithium-ion battery fire,” wrote Texas Motor Speedway spokesman David Hart in an email sent to Tesla fan site Teslarati.
Basic chemistry explains the difference between an electric car fire and a piston-powered car fire. The chemicals contained inside a standard fire extinguisher are ineffective against a burning lithium-ion battery pack. The best solution is to either use thousands of gallons of water, according to Autoblog, or to let the car burn until every part of it has been consumed.
Neither option is ideal, especially on a racetrack. There are other risks, too. Electric cars sometimes re-ignite many hours after the fire has been put out, and the high-voltage system adds another bullet point to the list of life-threatening hazards first responders need to take into account. Dealing with a burning electric vehicle requires a great deal of preparation.
Hart told Digital Trends the Texas Motor Speedway isn’t opposed to the idea of investing in additional safety equipment, and it could even create an electric car class. It all depends on whether or not EV owners want to race.
“The addition of an EV class to the Friday Night Drags lineup would depend, in part, on potential participant demand as well as a cost/benefit analysis with regard to the additional safety equipment requirements. The specifics of that analysis has not been determined at this time. If it makes sense, we’ll look at the possibility,” Hart told us.
Updated July 31, 2019: Added statement about EV class.
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