Electric vehicle fires are uncommon, but they’re difficult to put out – here’s why

Electric vehicles provide a road to cleaner air and lower fuel costs, and they are a rapidly rising new segment for automakers. However, with the shift to electric mobility comes to a new challenge: vehicles equipped with lithium-ion batteries could be particularly hazardous when they catch fire. The excellent thing is that battery electric car fires are quite rare.

Emma Sutcliffe, who works as the Project Director in charge of the EV FireSafe situated in Melbourne, Australia, believes that more data is needed to definitively identify fire rates, although preliminary investigations show that fires in completely electric cars are uncommon.

According to AutoinsuranceEZ’s research, battery electric automobiles have a.03 percent danger of igniting, compared to 1.5 percent for internal combustion engines. According to their research, hybrid electric vehicles (EVs) with both a high voltage battery as well as an internal combustion engine (ICE) have a 3.4 percent chance of catching fire.

When flames do break out, however, electric vehicles containing lithium-ion batteries ignite hotter, faster, and require significantly more water to put out, according to Sutcliffe. The batteries can also re-ignite hours or perhaps even days after the fire has been put out, putting repair shops, salvage yards, and other businesses at risk. According to Chas McGarvey, Chief Fire Officer of the Lower Merion Fire Agency in Pennsylvania, one Tesla Model S Plaid vehicle fire his department dealt with in 2021 was so hot that it was able to melt the road beneath it.

“A lot of the time, firefighters as well as fire agencies are just supposed to kind of figure it out,” Sutcliffe told CNBC. “We’re still trying to keep up with all this equipment,” said McGarvey, a fire chief in Pennsylvania, with several new models being purchased. ” But it evolves on a daily basis!” According to Eric Wachsman, who works as the Director of the Maryland’s Energy Institute, the properties which make lithium-ion battery cells to be powerful enough to operate a passenger vehicle could also make them sensitive to igniting, particularly if the battery cells which are within them are broken or malfunctioning.

He claims that lithium-ion battery cells feature electrodes that are close together, increasing the risk of a short, and they are loaded with a volatile liquid electrolyte. “This combustible liquid might enter what’s known as a thermal runaway situation,” he explained, “where it just starts boiling and causes a fire.”

Battery management systems are built into electric vehicles to keep the high-voltage batteries within at the proper operating temperature, and they also control how quickly the batteries charge and discharge. Enhancements to them and the improvements to the battery cells themselves, guarantee to make electric vehicles (EVs) safer.

Tesla just revealed that it will be transitioning from lithium-ion to LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries. Other major manufacturers, such as Ford and Volkswagen, are using LFPs to replace cobalt or nickel formulations in some of the EVs that they own. “These are generally thought to be a lot safer,” said Paul Christensen, an electrochemistry professor at Newcastle University who studies lithium-ion battery fires and safety. Finally, he feels that fully electric vehicles stand a better chance of being safer than the gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles they replace.

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