Electrical Vehicle Fires

Jun 20, 2024

Electrical Vehicle VS Regular Vehicle Fires

Where things go wrong with EV batteries, publicity is sure to follow, so questions about safety might be front of mind for customers concerned about possible charging risks in their homes. A rash of e-bike battery fires nationally—especially in New York City, where e-bikes have become a favored commuting option—has fueled fears. It’s important to understand why these events don’t apply to EVs, even though lithium-ion batteries are used in both.

First, e-bike batteries aren’t constructed like those for EVs. The cause for many e-bike fires has been traced to after-­market used or refurbished batteries that were not designed for the bikes they are being used to power, and possibly not for the chargers owners were using, either.

“Both technologies face the same fire challenges and require similar safety approaches,” said Joe Mayonado, manager of the New York City office of Jensen Hughes, a leading fire-safety engineering firm. However, he explains, “The EV industry is more mature than the e-bike industry. They’ve spent years building battery fire-­propagation resistance. E-bikes don’t have as much resistance, so they’re more prone to these fire events.”

A 2024 report by the online car insurance portal AutoinsuranceEZ, based on data from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, notes that fires are far more common with ICE vehicles than with fully battery-powered EVs. Out of every 100,000 vehicles sold, 1,529.9 traditional cars will experience a fire, versus only 25.1 EVs. (Interestingly, hybrids that combine both technologies face the highest risk, at 3,474.5 fires for every 100,000 sold.)

When they do occur, EV fires are harder to extinguish. Fire hoses can easily address a burning ICE vehicle, but water alone won’t work on an EV battery’s unique chemistry. Even when such a fire seems to be brought under control, it can reignite hours, or even days, later. Depending on the manufacturer, batteries can incorporate hundreds or thousands of individual battery cells (some look a lot like the AAAs in a TV remote). Fires often start in one individual cell, which may start a chain reaction. Causes can include electrical shorts, moisture intrusion and manufacturing problems.

Again, though, as Mayonado said, “There’s a lot of different data, but it all points to EVs having a much lower risk and frequency of fire events. They have a much better track record” than ICE vehicles. “The data supports that overall risk is lower, and probably significantly lower.”

Safety Tips:

  • Use devices that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory.
  • Read and follow all manufacturer directions.
  • Check chargers and cords for damage before using. Never use it, if it’s damaged.
  • Do not use extension cords with the charger.
  • Install charging equipment in safe locations.
  • Keep away from busy areas and things that could catch fire.
  • Keep charging items out of reach of children and animals when not in use.
  • Cover the charging station outlet to keep water out.
  • Before charging an electric vehicle at a new home, have a qualified electrician test/check your electrical system & existing EV charger/receptacle.
  • Have a qualified electrician to install a new circuit just for your charging device.

Charge into Fire Safety

Share This
Make A Payment