The Astonishing Story of Damaged Teslas Being Resurrected in Ukraine
Imagine this: a sleek Tesla Model Y, once shiny and new, now sits abandoned in a scrapyard. It has endured an accident that left it damaged beyond repair. Insurers, faced with this unfortunate reality, are left with no choice but to send it to the scrapyard. However, the scrapyard refuses to accept the damaged electric vehicle (EV). Why? Well, it turns out that making a profit from salvaging the relatively few parts of an EV is much more challenging compared to gas-powered vehicles. Moreover, there’s the added risk that the EV’s batteries may spontaneously catch fire. So, what happens to these damaged Teslas? Surprisingly, many of them find their way to the war-torn nation of Ukraine.
As Wired recently reported, Ukraine boasts a thriving electric vehicle resurrection industry, even amidst its ongoing battle with Russia. Ivan Malakhovsky, the owner of a repair business in Ukraine, revealed that most of the Teslas driven in Ukraine were once involved in wrecks in North America. In fact, when an EV battery is damaged beyond repair, Malakhovsky’s team sometimes repurposes its cells for use in drones on the battlefield or electric scooters.
However, the resurrection of EVs comes with its own set of challenges. EV batteries, while environmentally friendly, can pose dangers. A high-end vehicle scrapyard in Rancho Cordova, California learned this the hard way a few months ago when a salvaged Tesla Model S suddenly caught fire after sitting idle for three months. The vehicle had been salvaged due to flooding in Florida. This incident brought attention to the fact that saltwater can cause EV batteries to catch fire. Additionally, an EV battery that becomes ruptured during a collision can also ignite.
Alarmingly, even after extinguishing car fires, they can reignite in an instant. U.S. Senator Rick Scott expressed concern over this issue and wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, highlighting cases of Florida homes being lost to fires caused by flooded EVs following Hurricane Ian. While EV fires are less common than those in traditional vehicles, they are more complicated events since they can last longer and have the potential for electrical shock and reignition. The lithium-ion batteries that power EVs pose fire-related hazards that are often underestimated.
In the Rancho Cordova scrapyard incident, the Tesla Model S was surrounded by millions of dollars’ worth of salvaged vehicles, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Bentleys. This incident puzzled both firefighters and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who was tagged in a tweet by the fire department. The vehicle had no apparent cause for ignition, as it was sitting alone, separate from any potential igniters.
In response to these incidents, Tesla provides detailed information on its website for first responders on how to deal with fires in each of its models. For instance, in the case of a Model S catching fire, there must be no fire, smoke, popping/hissing sounds, or heating present in the high-voltage battery for at least 45 minutes before releasing the vehicle to second responders.
Interestingly, in Ukraine, EV repair specialists like Malakhovsky are willing to accept the potential risks associated with EV batteries. To them, these risks are just another challenge that can be overcome. “We have problems in our lives and can fix them, whether it’s a battery or a full-scale invasion,” Malakhovsky shared. “Electric cars, electric car batteries—it’s no problem.”
In conclusion, the fate of damaged Teslas has led to an unexpected industry in Ukraine. The country’s electric vehicle resurrection industry has managed to thrive despite the ongoing conflict with Russia. While salvaging damaged EVs comes with risks, including the potential hazards associated with lithium-ion batteries, Ukrainians like Ivan Malakhovsky have embraced the challenge. These damaged vehicles, once striking symbols of cutting-edge technology, now find new lives and purposes in Ukraine, proving that their value extends beyond what meets the eye.