Electric Vehicle Fire Incidents and Statistics

Everything you need to know about electric vehicle fire incidents & statistics, for 2021 and beyond.

Electric Vehicle Fires

Types of Electric Vehicles

  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are vehicles that use both an electric engine and a traditional internal combustion engine. The battery is charged by regenerative braking and the internal combustion system. Extra power during starts and acceleration, allows for a smaller engine.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are similar to HEVs but have a larger rechargeable battery that allows them to travel on solely electricity. The battery can be charged like HEVs through regenerative braking, by its internal combustion engine, and will maximize its battery use by plugging into an electric power source.
  • All-electric vehicles (EVs) run solely on electricity. They are powered by an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery (larger than the batteries in an HEV or PHEV). The EV batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source and (to a lesser degree than HEVs and PHEVs) through regenerative braking.

Evolution of Electric Cars

  • 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment and the 1992 Energy Policy Act with the help of the California Air Resource Board issuing new transportation emissions regulations there was a renewed interest in electric vehicles in the US.
  • The Honda Insight was the first hybrid electric vehicle available, coming on the market in 1999 with just 17 sales.
  • The first modern crash-related fire was reported in China in May 2012, after a high-speed car crashed into a BYD e6 taxi.
  • 2018 saw a 64% increase in EVs with the total number rising from 3.4 million to 5.6 million.
  • There are over 5.6 million electric vehicles worldwide as of 2021.
  • There are over 1 million EVs, PHEVs, and HEVs on the roads in the US as of 2021.
  • Batteries make up about 40% of the value of an electric car.
  • The average electric vehicle battery pack’s lifespan is estimated to be around 200,000 miles, or roughly 17 years if using a standard amount (12,000 miles per year). While the average gasoline vehicle’s operating lifespan is 12 years.

Are Electric Cars More Likely to Catch Fire?

  • “Battery fires can take up to 24 hours to extinguish” – Tesla
  • It takes at least 2,600 gallons of water to put out a battery fire.
  • There have been approximately one Tesla vehicle fire for every 205 million miles driven.
  • When gasoline comes in contact with a spark or flame is how a gasoline fire occurs, while battery fires typically take some time to acquire the heat necessary to start the fire.
  • Gasoline and battery fires burn very differently. Batteries can be expected to reignite after being put out because they still have stored energy.
  • Tesla claims that gasoline-powered cars are about 11 times more likely to catch fire as opposed to a Tesla.
  • The battery in an electric vehicle is not only the fuel to power the vehicle, but is also what fuels an electric vehicle fire.
  • The greater the amount of energy the electric vehicle may contain, the greater the fire risk of electric vehicle fires.
  • 31% of fire departments don’t train for electric vehicle fires.
  • 50% of fire departments say they don’t have special protocols in place to handle electric vehicles after an accident.

What To Do If Your Electric Car Catches Fire

  • Water can be used to slow down the combustion process and cool the inside. Keep a direct stream on the battery until it is mitigated.
  • DO NOT TOUCH THE BATTERY OR ANY OF THE HIGH VOLTAGE COMPONENTS! This is where most of the heat is going to be absorbed.
  • Spray water directly into the battery housing to extinguish the fire, if possible.
  • If there is still stored energy inside the battery, the fire can reignite. Make sure to be cautious.

Batteries Used in Electric Vehicles

Lithium-ion battery:

  • Lithium-ion batteries are the most common battery type in modern electric vehicles, because of its lightweight, longer battery run time in relation to the battery size, and because of its rechargeability.
  • Lithium-ion batteries can power anything from cell phones and laptops to HEVs and EVs.

6 Types of Lithium-ion batteries:

  • lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2)
  • lithium manganese oxide (LMO)
  • lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC)
  • lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP)
  • lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (NCA)
  • lithium titanate (LTO)

Advantages:

  • Lithium-ion batteries are capable of having a very high voltage and charge storage per unit mass and unit volume.
  • One of the highest energy densities of any battery technology to date (100-265 Wh/kg or 250-670 Wh/L).
  • Lithium-ion battery cells can deliver up to 3.6 Volts, 3 times higher than Ni-Cd or Ni-MH.
  • Do not require scheduled cycling to maintain their battery life, so they are comparatively low maintenance.
  • Lithium-ion batteries have no memory effect, a detrimental process where repeated partial discharge/charge cycles can cause a battery to ‘remember’ a lower capacity.

Disadvantages:

  • Lithium-ion batteries have a tendency to overheat and can be damaged at high voltages leading to thermal runaway and combustion.
  • Lithium-ion batteries are subject to aging, with the possibility of losing capacity and fail frequently after a number of years.
  • They are relatively expensive, with around a 40% higher cost than Ni-Cd.

Nickel-Metal Hydride Battery:

  • Nickel–metal hydride (NiMH) batteries are the battery of choice for hybrid electric vehicles.
  • Nickel-metal hydride batteries are used routinely in computer and medical equipment.

Advantages:

  • Nickel-metal hydride batteries are safe and abuse tolerant and have a much longer life cycle than lead-acid batteries.
  • Don’t need to do exercise cycles as often.
  • Fewer toxic metals, which is why they are labeled “environmentally friendly.”
  • Greater service advantage over other primary battery types at low-temperature extremes operating at -20°C.

Disadvantages:

  • Nickel-metal hydride batteries have a high cost, high self-discharge and heat generation at high temperatures, and the need to control hydrogen loss.
  • Decreased performance if stored at elevated temperatures.

Battery Capacity Metrics

  • Gross Capacity (total capacity): the total amount of electric power a pack can theoretically hold.
  • Net Capacity (usable capacity): the amount of energy the electric car can actually operate.

Common Causes of Electric Vehicle Fires

  • When a Lithium-ion battery is exposed to an external impact and experiences operating conditions, it can break causing the car to catch fire.
  • Most eclectic vehicle fires are caused by the thermal runaway of a damaged battery.
  • Thermal runaway is the rapid and extreme rise in temperature and when it initiates the same reaction in adjacent cells it is known as ‘thermal runaway propagation. When thermal runaway happens, it can produce smoke, fire and even explosions.
  • While the electric vehicle is stationary from:
  • Extreme temperatures, both extreme heat and cold
    • High humidity
    • Flooding
    • Internal cell failure
  • Prior abuse of a Lithium-Ion Battery at some prior
  • Overcharging or problems with the charging station.
  • After an accident that caused enough damage to cause ignition during or immediately after the crash.
  • Reignition of the Lithium-Ion Battery after an initial fire has been resolved.

Electric Vehicle Classes of Fire

  • Class A (tires, fabrics, plastics).
  • Class B (fuel).
  • Class C (lithium-ion batteries in hybrid and electric cars).
  • Class D (magnesium, titanium, aluminum and lithium)

How Often Do Electric Vehicle Catch on Fire

2011 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • April 2011: Zotye M300 EV was operating as a taxicab in Hangzhou, China when it caught fire because of battery pack problems.

2012 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • May 2012: Fisker Karma was the origin of a house fire in Fort Bend County, Texas.
  • May 2012: BYD e6a taxi was hit by a Nissan GTR in Shenzhen, China, the electric car caught fire after hitting a tree-killing all three occupants.
  • October 29, 2012: During Hurricane Sandy, a Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and a 16 Fisker Karmas caught fire while parked at Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal due to flooding from the storm.

2013 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • October 1, 2013: In Kent, Washington a Tesla Model S caught fire after the vehicle hit debris on a highway.
  • October 18, 2013: In Merida, Mexico a Tesla Model S caught on fire after being driven at a high speed through a roundabout and crashed through a wall and into a tree.
  • November 6, 2013: On Interstate 24 near Murfreesboro, Tennessee a Tesla Model S caught fire after it struck a tow hitch causing damage beneath the vehicle.
  • November 15, 2013: In Irvine, California a Tesla Model S was plugged in and charging causing the garage to go up in flames. The fire originated at the wall connection where the Tesla charging equipment was plugged in.

2014 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • February 16, 2014: In Toronto, Canada a Model S was parked in a garage when it caught on fire. The Tesla Model S was not plugged in or charging.

2015 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • September 1, 2015: Nissan Leaf caught fire in Flower Mound, Texas. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed.

2016 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • January 1, 2016: A Tesla Model S caught on fire while charging at a Tesla Supercharger in Norway.
  • August 15, 2016: A Tesla Model S 90D spontaneously caught fire during a promotional test drive in Biarritz, France. The fire completely destroyed the Tesla Model S 90D within 5 minutes.

2017 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • August 25, 2017: The driver of a Tesla Model X in Lake Forest, California, lost control of the vehicle, causing the vehicle to crash into a garage. The crash started a fire that damaged the car and structure it was attached to.
  • December 7, 2017: VW e-Golf caught fire in Triangel, Germany. This incident was the first electric vehicle fire that the firefighters had ever responded to. They first cooled the vehicle then moved it into a container which they then filled with water.

2018 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • January 8, 2018: Tesla spontaneously ignited while parked.
  • March 16, 2018: Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid was plugged into a household outlet to charge in Thailand when it burst into flames.
  • May 2018: The first reported Hyundai Kona fire took place in Hyundai’s Ulsan production plant.
  • May 8, 2018: An 18-year-old lost control of his Tesla Model S while driving 116 mph in a 30 mph zone and hit the curb, a wall, the curb and a light pole causing the battery pack to ignite; the car was reportedly modified to be limited to a top speed of 85 mph. The driver and passenger died in the crash and subsequent fire.
  • May 10, 2018: A Tesla S caught fire after hitting the guardrail on the Swiss A2 highway, killing the 48-year-old German driver.
  • June 16, 2018: Tesla Model S was alerted by pedestrians on a Los Angeles street that smoke was coming from the vehicle. The driver pulled over and exited the vehicle and flames started shooting out from under it.
  • August 16, 2018: A second Hyundai Kona Electric fire occurred on the Ulsan production line.

2019 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • February 8, 2019: In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, A Tesla Model S caught on fire in a garage. Two months later, it caught on fire again.
  • February 24, 2019: In Davie Florida, a Tesla Model S crashed into a tree bursting into flames and burning its driver to death due to the automatic doors having a malfunction while the vehicle was on fire. The Tesla Model S caught fire again after being brought to the tow yard.
  • February 24, 2019: Tesla Model X was consumed by fire in the middle of frozen Lake Champlain.
  • March 25, 2019: BMW i8 in the Netherlands began to smoke while in the car dealership. The BMW i8 was put in a water tank to prevent the vehicle battery from exploding.
  • April 21, 2019: Tesla Model S exploded in an underground garage in Shanghai, China. Damaging five surrounding cars.
  • May 1, 2019: Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid caught fire after colliding against a pillar of a bridge in Portugal. The Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid was carrying 6 people, 2 died in the fire, another 2 died of injuries in the Hospital, and the other 2 individuals survived.
  • May 4, 2019: Tesla Model S, had smoke near the right rear tire while not plugged in.
  • May 13, 2019: Tesla Model S, in Hong Kong, caught on fire while parked.
  • June 1, 2019: Tesla Model S in Belgium burned down while supercharging.
  • July 26, 2019: Hyundai Kona Electric was parked unplugged in a residential garage in Montreal, Canada. A fire began triggering an explosion.
  • July 28, 2019: Hyundai Kona Electric in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, South Korea caught fire while charging.
  • August 9, 2019: Hyundai Kona Electric was parked in South Korea when flames began at the floor of the back seat of the vehicle.
  • August 10, 2019: Tesla Model 3 collided with a truck on a high-speed road in Moscow, Russia, engulfing the Tesla Model 3 in flames.
  • August 13, 2019: Hyundai Kona Electric caught fire at an apartment in Sejong City, South Korea while charging in an underground parking level.
  • September 17, 2019: Hyundai Kona Electric in Leonstein, Austria a battery fire reportedly occurred while driving.
  • November 12, 2019: 2017 Tesla Model X in Chester, England burst into flames while charging. Destroying the Tesla Model X completely.

2020 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • February 16, 2020: Porsche Taycan in Florida burned while parked in a residential garage.
  • April 2, 2020: Hyundai Kona EV caught fire while parked after a full charge in South Korea.
  • May 29, 2020: Hyundai Kona EV which after full charge at the electric charging station in Korea caught on fire causing 29 million won of property damage once fully extinguished.
  • August 7, 2020: Hyundai Kona EV caught on fire while charging in South Korea.
  • August 24, 2020: Hyundai Kona EV caught fire while parked after a full charge in South Korea.
  • September 26, 2020: Hyundai Kona EV was connected to an electric vehicle charger in the parking lot of an apartment in South Korea when it caught on fire.
  • October 4, 2020: Hyundai Kona EV caught on fire in South Korea while parked in an apartment building’s underground parking.
  • October 17, 2020: Hyundai Kona EV electric vehicle caught at the electric vehicle rapid charging site in South Korea.

October 18, 2020: Hyundai Motor recalled 77,000 Kona EVs due to battery issues.

2021 Electric Vehicle Fires

  • January 19, 2021: Tesla Model 3 exploded in an underground residential parking garage in Shanghai on Tuesday, Chinese media reported.
  • January 23, 2021: Hyundai Kona Electric The fire mysteriously broke out at a Kona Electric being charged at a taxi company. The battery underneath the vehicle was identified as the ignition point.
  • April 17, 2021: Two people were killed when a Tesla Model S with no one in the driver’s seat crashed into a tree and burst into flames.
  • May 1, 2021: Chevy Bolt burst into flames while parked in the home’s garage starting from the backseat.

Electric Vehicle Battery Useability vs Range

  • An electric vehicle’s battery capacity is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), which is the same unit your home electric meter records to determine your monthly electric bill.
Electric Vehicle Model Battery Useable – kWh Range- km
Average for Electric Vehicles 59.8 kWh 313 km
Tesla Cybertruck Tri Motor 200.0 Average 750 Average
Tesla Cybertruck Dual Motor 120.0 Average 460 Average
Lucid Air Grand Touring 110.0 Average 660 Average
Mercedes EQS 450+ 107.8 Average 640 Average
BMW iX xDrive50 105.2 Average 505 Average
Tesla Cybertruck Single Motor 100.0 Average 390 Average
Byton M-Byte 95 kWh 2WD 95.0 Average 400 Average
Mercedes EQV 300 Extra-Long 90.0 Average 320 Average
Tesla Model S Long Range 90.0 Average 555 Average
Tesla Model X Long Range 90.0 Average 475 Average
Ford Mustang Mach-E ER RWD 88.0 Average 440 Average
Nissan Ariya 87kWh 87.0 Average 445 Average
Audi e-tron GT quattro 85.0 Average 420 Average
Jaguar I-Pace EV400 84.7 Average 365 Average
Porsche Taycan 4S Plus 83.7 Average 435 Average
Kia EV6 Long Range 2WD 77.4 Average 420 Average
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 77.0 Average 420 Average
Volkswagen ID.4 Pro Performance 77.0 Average 410 Average
CUPRA Born 170 kW – 82 kWh 77.0 Average 450 Average
Tesla Model 3 Performance 76.0 Average 460 Average
Volvo C40 Recharge 75.0 Average 340 Average
Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor 75.0 Average 425 Average
Hyundai IONIQ 5 Project 45 72.6 Average 385 Average
Tesla Model Y Performance 72.5 Average 410 Average
Citroen e-SpaceTourer M 75 kWh 68.0 Average 270 Average
Opel Zafira-e Life M 75 kWh 68.0 Average 270 Average
Peugeot e-Traveller Standard 75 kWh 68.0 Average 270 Average
Toyota PROACE Verso M 75 kWh 68.0 Average 270 Average
Mercedes EQA 250 66.5 Average 350 Average
MG Marvel R 65.0 Average 340 Average
Aiways U5 63.0 Average 410 Average
Lightyear One 60.0 Average 410 Average
Renault Megane E-Tech Electric 60.0 Average 410 Average
Opel Ampera-e 58.0 Average 410 Average
Skoda Enyaq iV 60 58.0 Average 405 Average
Nissan Leaf e+ 56.0 Average 405 Average
MG MG5 Electric 56.0 Average 405 Average
Renault Zoe ZE50 R110 52.0 Average 405 Average
Lexus UX 300e 50.0 Average 405 Average
DS 3 Crossback E-Tense 45.0 Average 400 Average
JAC iEV7s 39.0 Average 270 Average
Fiat 500e 3+1 37.3 Average 220 Average
Sono Sion 35.0 Average 225 Average
Dacia Spring Electric 26.8 Average 170 Average

Future of Electric Vehicles

  • To meet President Biden’s goal of net-zero emissions, if the United States wanted to move to solely electric vehicles on the roads by 2050. The sale of gasoline-powered vehicles would likely have to end altogether by around 2035.
  • Even in 2050, when electric vehicles are projected to make up 60 percent of new vehicle sales, the majority of vehicles on the roads in the US will still run on gasoline.
  • The latest report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that by 2040, 58% of global passenger vehicle sales will come from electric vehicles. At the same time, they will make up less than 33% of all the cars on the road.
  • Within the next decade, there will be 500,000 new electric charging ports in the US.
    In California alone, there will be around 4 million electric vehicles by 2030.

Sources:
National Fire Protection Association

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Electric Vehicle Database

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