September 24, 2023


Automotive to Us

Are electric car fires really that common?

Are electric car fires really that common?

If you’re shelling out any time on social media exploring electrical cars, you’ve most likely examine headlines and opinions about electrical car or truck fires. But do EVs genuinely burn up to the floor all the time as some people today will have you feel?

Quite a few fears have accompanied the increase in acceptance of the electrical vehicle (EV) among car or truck purchasers. At first, it was array nervousness – that dread of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat battery and nowhere to plug it in. Far better and larger batteries have predominantly consigned selection anxiety to historical past, only to be replaced by charge nervousness – will the plug-in stage you need to have be operating when you get to it?

The a single EV anxiety that refuses to go absent, nonetheless, is the assert that they are significantly much more probably to catch hearth than are standard combustion-engined autos. Pictures of electric car or truck fires pop up regularly on social media, usually exhibiting a flaming or burnt-out Tesla someplace in America, with the caption “Look how unsafe electrical motor vehicles are!”

In truth, it is an city myth – investigation into precise conditions has shown that EVs are substantially significantly less possible to combust than their petrol or diesel equivalents. Which is not to say that all individuals images on social media under no circumstances took place you just do not see an equivalent selection of shots of petrol automobiles burning to the ground…

Having said that it’s not all excellent information. When an EV does go up in flames, it presents a considerably trickier proposition for the emergency products and services making an attempt to extinguish the blaze.

Most of the sound bordering electric auto fires comes from folks who are pretty vocal about their absolute opposition to EVs and the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles. At best, their fears stem from a absence of comprehension of electrically-driven machines as a total.

We’ve all experienced electrical appliances we have experienced to chuck away just after the batteries – most likely remaining in significantly way too prolonged – corroded all in excess of their contacts. And a honest few of us have likely skilled an overloaded plug overheating and melting.

With electrical vehicles boasting massive significant-voltage battery packs, it is maybe no surprise that this sort of fears transfer to them and are ramped up to everyday living-threatening stage. But proof of the hazard of electrical car fires indicates the actual reverse.

Long odds

Probably stung by the recurring adverse publicity, Tesla released data in the US claiming that for every single 205 million miles travelled, an EV was ten periods less probable to catch hearth than the common charge of fires in petrol cars and trucks. And whilst figures from an EV maker could possibly be regarded with some suspicion, a US insurance company researched knowledge from the Countrywide Transportation Security Board and concluded that battery-driven EVs suffer only 25 fires for every 100,000 offered, when compared to 1,530 for petrol or diesel cars, and notably 3,475 for hybrids. On the other hand, that report has been debunked for inadequate methodology.

In the United kingdom, Air High-quality News made an in-depth study of the EV fire menace, and identified that in 2019 the London Fire Brigade tackled 54 fires in EVs, in contrast to 1,898 in petrol and diesel cars. A extra recent study by Health and fitness & Security specialist CE Basic safety prompt there had been 735 contact-outs to EV fires in the United kingdom around the past 5 yrs – but this involved all types of EV such as scooters and bikes, with autos symbolizing just 44% of the total – so about 323 when there are shut to 33 million autos on the UK’s roads…

In an interview with Forbes previously this 12 months, Thatcham Investigation CTO, Richard Billyeald, reported that electric powered motor vehicles usually have a lessen hearth chance than fossil-fuel cars, but that the knowledge pool is now little.

“Our newest study implies that the hazard of a fireplace for all kinds of EV stays considerably less possible than for ICE (interior combustion engine) automobiles. It must be pointed out that the usable knowledge only goes back five years and even now the amount of EVs on the roadways continue to represents a extremely tiny sample dimension.

“This is also reflected in the safety testing we perform in the British isles on behalf of Euro NCAP, exactly where in spite of the robust impacts to the entrance and notably the sides of the car wherever the battery is most susceptible, there have been no resultant thermal situations.”

There are quite excellent reasons why an EV is much less most likely to capture fire than a petrol or diesel car. An EV has far much less going components (friction between components can be a regular lead to of fires, foremost to overheating). There is no flammable liquid this kind of as petrol staying pumped via the auto from the gasoline tank, typically at the back again, to the motor at the entrance, and there is no hot exhaust to persuade combustion. Without the need of the extensive cooling programs offered by a radiator, and quite a few litres of coolant frequently circulating as a result of the motor, a petrol auto would overheat and possibly capture hearth inside minutes.

Just one valid stage that the anti-EV brigade routinely delivers up is that a petrol motor vehicle is unlikely to spontaneously capture fireplace when parked in a garage in the middle of the evening – it’s only very likely to occur when the car is very hot from managing. Some EV fires have been acknowledged to happen when the car or truck has been parked right away, thanks to a approach identified as thermal runaway. What is that, you check with?

Will cause of electric powered car or truck fires

So when an EV does catch fireplace, why does it materialize? The centrepiece is the lithium-ion battery pack. Despite the fact that this is the identical know-how that goes into a telephone or laptop computer battery, EVs have sophisticated cooling techniques for their battery packs to preserve them at optimum temperatures. This prevents them running way too incredibly hot during recharging or driving, so your vehicle batteries never get pretty warm even though performing challenging, like your telephone or laptop can do.

EV fireplace pro Professor Paul Christensen from the College of Newcastle stated to Air Good quality News that all battery packs retail store massive quantities of electrical power in a really modest place, which is why they can get scorching.

If the pack is penetrated (this sort of as in an incident), or uncovered to excessive warmth, or incures some other variety of failure, an inside quick circuit can manifest.

This quick circuit leads to too much warmth which can’t be removed as quick as it is getting produced, and this sales opportunities to a chemical reaction which generates more warmth, which accelerates the chemical response, which generates extra heat… This escalating cycle is known as thermal runaway. It can, claims Prof Christensen, induce ignition or even an explosion.

Dealing with EV fires

Though electrical motor vehicle fires are really uncommon, they pose fantastic difficulties to unexpected emergency products and services – who are still in the approach of discovering how to tackle these kinds of incidents.

The big problem with EV fires is essentially placing them out, as they are extremely hard to extinguish and then to maintain extinguished. In a piece reassuring people in its county that EVs are not a bigger fire chance and people should really have no qualms about acquiring one, Bedfordshire Fire Support did expose that various EV suppliers recommend that an EV hearth need to be allowed to burn out by alone in a controlled fashion.

When the fire is out, crisis expert services have to continue to be vigilant as the nature of EV battery packs has in the earlier found examples of fires reigniting after they ended up apparently extinguished – from time to time months later on. This has lifted fears between this kind of bodies as car restoration services, with growing occasions of fire engines basically pursuing recovery vehicles to their spot in situation the fire begins once more.

In accordance to Bedfordshire Fireplace Assistance, an EV fire can generate a lot more than 100 chemical compounds, some of which are hugely poisonous such as carbon monoxide. Fireplace company protecting respiration devices need to be able to cope with such chemicals, but even a mild wind can carry pollutants a very long way. Of class, a burning petrol motor vehicle will also release a whole lot of pollutants into the air as well…

Amongst the much more exceptional measures for tackling EV blazes, a fire service in Denmark has developed a car-sized container which can be decreased off the again of a specifically transformed truck and a even now-smouldering EV lowered into it. The container is then pumped entire of drinking water and taken to a secure storage location, exactly where it is still left for occasionally quite a few weeks until it is considered the automobile is safe.

Surely the troubles of fighting EV fires has raised challenges about EV batteris in other locations. Putting in EV charging factors in this kind of sites as underground automobile parks could require to be reconsidered, when a single additional worry for those people investigating EV-linked basic safety is the re-use of lithium-ion battery packs.

End-of-everyday living or prepared-off EVs will often have their battery packs taken off and re-used, normally ending up in typical vehicles converted to operate as EVs. With significantly nonetheless to find out about how battery packs react in the latter levels of their lifestyle, individuals ought to be quite careful ahead of going down this route – notably as there are loads of dependable traditional motor vehicle converters in the sector using manufacturer-new battery packs as an alternative.

Fire retardants

Whilst there are relatively several EV fires, automobile producers are taking them seriously. The EV marketplace is nevertheless youthful and there is much continue to to discover, but a great deal work is going on to increase the safety of battery packs. For example, choices to conventional lithium-ion battery packs are getting produced. Lithium iron phosphate batteries are reported to be significantly safer, even though a further probable improvement, good-point out batteries, are claimed to be completely secure from hearth.

The present engineering is also underneath continual enhancement, creating measures to contain a fire within the battery pack for as long as feasible, offering the occupants of the vehicle with a lot more time to escape. This is attained via a host of methods, from ceramic blankets (the identical fundamental technological innovation as applied in fireproof document storage containers) to gels and foam encasing the battery pack.

The big problem for this sort of technologies is to preserve tempo with the engineering advancement of the packs by themselves, which is moving at a very rapid amount.

China was the 1st to undertake new restrictions concentrated on thermal runaway, which contain a necessity for fireplace and smoke to contained within the battery pack for at least five minutes soon after initial ignition. While this regulation is but to be formally adopted in Europe, makers are developing EVs to meet these necessities to pre-empt probable long run regulation.


All all those included insist that the remedy is not to turn away from the EV but to understand the greatest way to tackle the rare chance of a fireplace. Professionals these types of as Prof Christensen consider the response will lie in a amount of actions working together, the two in the structure of the batteries and how a fire is fought. “The very last thing I want to do is demonise lithium-ion batteries,” he claims. “They are astounding, we’ve found no battery like them right before and they are crucial to the decarbonisation of the world.”

So the conclusion? If your EV catches fireplace, it will be a obstacle for the crisis providers to deal with, but one particular which they are promptly getting to grips with.

There are loads of fantastic motives you may possibly not want to buy an electric car or truck – high costs, deficiency of charging infrastructure, your have driving circumstances, and so on. Having said that, fears of a existence-threatening blaze should not be one of those people causes, since you are considerably fewer very likely to go through a fire in an electric powered automobile than if you purchased a petrol or diesel automobile instead…