Answer to a controversial question: Why do electric cars catch fire?

Burned Chevrolet Bolt Electric Car

Although batteries can catch fire for various reasons, reports of electric vehicle fires are often exaggerated.

Every few months, a report is published about an electric vehicle catching fire or sometimes we see these vehicles spontaneously combusting. The question is whether the risk of electric car fires exists everywhere? The answer to this question is somewhat complex but the short answer is no.

Most people believe that electric cars are more prone to catching fire than gasoline-powered cars. In addition, with a simple Google search, we can see numerous other examples that have faced fire.

Electric cars are exciting, new and very different products compared to conventional vehicles that use gas or gasoline engines, but the fear of battery fires is always present among people.

Why do electric cars catch fire?

Electric cars usually use lithium-ion batteries, a widely used technology found in other electronic products such as smartphones, smartwatches, scooters, laptops and the latest Tesla cars. Reports have been published several times before about Samsung and Apple phones catching fire, products that use lithium-ion batteries. Therefore, the risk of ignition is not exclusive to electric cars.

Electric Car Fire

Anyway, electric cars use very large battery packs and are equipped with advanced cooling systems to maintain ideal temperature, making their technology different from the small 5000 mAh batteries found in your smartphone.

Battery packs hold a lot of energy in relatively small dimensions, and electric cars quickly discharge this energy for movement; As a result, the temperature of the battery packs of electric vehicles can increase significantly. Most vehicle battery fires are reportedly due to faulty design, thermal runaway, short circuits, damage from accidents or other malfunctions.

For example, Chinese company Nio, which is active in the production of electric cars, states that the fire of its products was due to short circuits.

Electric Vehicle Fire Statistics

Current estimates show that only about one percent of the 260 million vehicles in the United States are electric. Certainly, the number of gasoline-powered cars that have caught fire is much higher than electric cars. Of course, comparing these two types of cars is somewhat difficult, but the problem of electric vehicle fires is not as common as you might imagine.

Although gasoline and electric cars can’t be easily compared, data from Auto Insurance EZ and the findings of some researchers provide a good perspective on car fires.

Very interesting results have been obtained from comparing the number of fires per 100,000 gas-powered cars sold to the number of electric cars. According to ReviewGeek, gasoline cars are more prone to catching fire than electric vehicles, and in fact, 1,529 out of every 100,000 gasoline-powered cars have caught fire.

By comparison, only 25 out of every 100,000 electric vehicles have experienced fires. This statistic is very different from what most people think about the risk of fires in electric cars.

Tesla electric cars

Note that the bigger problem is hybrid cars. If the presented statistics are true, this type of vehicles are more than twice as likely to catch fire as ordinary cars, and that is really terrifying.

Gasoline cars catch fire more than electric cars

Various reports indicate that ordinary cars are much more likely to catch fire than electric cars. The likelihood of a conventional vehicle catching fire, even in the event of an accident, is much higher than that of an electric car. Remember that both gas and electricity can cause a car to catch fire in case of an accident.

Gas nozzle next to electric car charger

Millions of gasoline-powered vehicles exist on roads around the world, and the possibility of fire exists in all of them. According to Statista, approximately 174,000 reports of fires with these types of vehicles were published on US highways in 2021 alone.

Hybrid Cars Catch Fire More Than Other Cars

New electric car technology is always in the news, especially when a fire occurs.

Nevertheless, research shows that the likelihood of fire in hybrid vehicles is much higher than expected.

According to Statista, approximately 3,474 hybrid cars catch fire for every 100,000 sold. This figure is more than twice that of gasoline and gas-powered vehicles and significantly higher than electric cars. Essentially, hybrid cars are more susceptible to fire than any other type of vehicle, and electric cars are considered safer than other types.

Although the high probability of hybrid car fires may seem terrifying, it is logical since these products have the components of an electric car and a regular gasoline engine together. Therefore, these types of vehicles are twice as likely to catch fire.

In fact, the likelihood of damage to gas tanks or battery packs in electric cars is greater. Additionally, the likelihood of deficiencies in electronics, moving parts, short circuits, and other issues can be reasons why these types of products are more susceptible to fire.

Any type of vehicle can catch fire depending on the conditions or in case of an accident. The important problem is that when these types of vehicles catch fire, extinguishing them will be more difficult. There are reports showing that electric cars have even reignited after being turned off and during towing. In the end, it should be said that all vehicles can face the risk of fire but electric vehicles are not necessarily dangerous. The technology used in these products, like any other technology, will improve over time and the probability of fire will also decrease.

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