A defective battery pack ignited inside the Rivian Automotive plant over the weekend resulting in a fire and evacuation of the battery assembly area of the plant in Normal, Illinois.
Normal firefighters responded to the Rivian Automotive Plant at 100 N Rivian Motorway at 10:38 a.m. on Saturday to the report of a battery pack on fire inside the building. When firefighters arrived, there was a battery pack in thermal runaway in a battery testing area in the southwest side of the plant where the batteries are built for the Rivian vehicles. Firefighters connected hoses to standpipes inside the building and extinguished the battery pack fire and then continued to flow water on the pack to keep it cool to prevent further thermal runaway from occurring. Bloomington firefighters were called to the scene to assist with manpower, due to the size of the facility, and off-duty Normal firefighters were called in to handle other calls during the incident.
Once the battery pack was extinguished and cooled, firefighters moved the fire damaged battery outside of the plant and began ventilating the smoke from the building. Once outside, firefighters continued to cool the pack with water until it was released to Rivian engineers for investigation and disassembly.
The exact cause of the fire is under investigation, but the battery pack had been in a repair area and was being tested when the thermal runaway began. A thermal runaway event on a battery occurs when a battery cell overheats and ignites either due to a fire or electrical fault. The ignited cell releases more heat to the adjacent cells in a self-sustaining chain reaction. The fire was in the battery assembly area and did not involve a vehicle or production equipment. The only damage was to the battery pack, the carrier, and the test booth equipment.
There were no injuries reported to employees or firefighters, and the building was turned back over to Rivian at about 2:00 p.m.