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Battery on new Orange Line car didn't just "fail," it exploded

So you can understand why the MBTA, already under the gun for all those safety violations and the ongoing delays in getting new Orange and Red Line trains into service, might want to downplay what happened early Monday morning in the Wellington Orange Line yard, calling it a "battery failure" but grudgingly acknowledging, at least to a Globe reporter, that the "failure" caused "significant damage" to the part of the car where the battery used to be.

In any case, the T says in a statement that safety comes first:

With safety being the top priority, the MBTA has decided to keep all of the new Orange Line and Red Line cars out of service while vehicle engineers and technicians work to determine the root cause of the failure and implement whatever corrective actions may be necessary. An update on the status of the cars will be provided as soon as the engineering team completes its work.

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Li-Ion are pretty safe unless dropped from a decent distance. Something is fundamentally wrong for a battery to explode, not just someone forgot to tighten a bolt.

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Certain battery chemistries do not take well to being short-circuited and may explode. One way for this to happen is if the battery is not tied down properly and both terminals contact some neighboring metal.

Another theory: Lead acid batteries emit hydrogen gas if overcharged. If kept enclosed, it can accumulate and a spark can ignite it.

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LiOn: almost certainly not
Lead acid: maybe, if they're really pushing the envelope here
Copper-zinc voltaic pile: I think we all know this is the one

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Can we go a month without the new cars being pulled from service?

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I can easily imagine all the new cars being out of service for several months.

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Last year (Dec 14 2021) I took my first ride on a new Orange Line subway, but we only made it partway. While stopped at Green Street, there was a loud bang and then smoke started pouring out of one of one of the cars.

They opened all the doors, MBTA staff came around and evacuated all the cars, and the fire department arrived. Nobody explained what had happened (they just issued an alert saying “delay due to mechanical problems”), but I’m wondering now if that same battery issue has been happening all along?

(It was easy to look up all the details, cause I tweeted to the MBTA about it at the time, and also texted my family that “I finally took a new Orange Line subway, and it blew up!”)

Voting closed 21

You can't handle the truth!

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to prevent trains from running away.

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