There is a lot of talk about the fire safety of electric cars. It's not so much that they're more dangerous, but when one catches fire, it does make the news, whereas that's rarely the case with internal combustion engine cars. So what exactly is the situation?
Manufacturers of electric cars and hybrid cars pay a lot of attention to the fire safety of their vehicles. For example, they are extensively tested before they go into production. Even once they are driving around, manufacturers keep a close eye on this.
The effects of fire on an electric car and its battery pack are well known. Therefore, firefighters no longer need to be reluctant to grant permits for charging points in parking garages.
A few years ago, fire tests conducted by the German expertise center DEKRA showed that electric and hybrid cars with a lithium-ion battery pack are at least as safe as cars with a gasoline engine and conventional batteries. The flames and smoke from burning batteries were found to be significantly less than from gasoline and diesel technology. However, the smoke from a battery fire can be toxic, so the danger is similar to that of a burning internal combustion engine car. In addition, field tests have shown that the fire is less likely to spread because there are no flammable liquids leaking from lithium-ion batteries.
During a charging session, there are many factors that must be monitored by electronics specifically designed for each battery by the car manufacturer. Together with the inverter, these electronics form the battery charger. The battery charger is placed in passenger cars and is always extensively tested as part of a type approval process before the vehicle is allowed on public roads.
Incidentally, it is important that an electric car or a hybrid car is always charged at a charging station in conjunction with a Mode 3 cable so that charging is done in a controlled and safe manner.
Are electric cars more susceptible to fire?
From a fire protection perspective, there is currently no evidence that the fire risk of electric vehicles is greater than that of traditional internal combustion engine cars. This is also due to the fact that any electrically powered car must comply with legal type approval requirements just like an internal combustion engine car. This already provides a high degree of safety. It is a fact that cars with all drive types can catch fire due to defects, such as mechanical damage, electrical malfunctions or even thermal effects. Damaged cars, as well as defective e-bikes, should never be stored in underground garages and parking lots. This serves to prevent fires.
Danger from fumes
The problems of vehicle fires in garages are almost identical for all types of vehicles: the combustion of the plastic parts of a car releases toxic fumes and creates very high temperatures. Since cars today are larger than they used to be, and thus more (or larger) plastic parts are incorporated, the extent of a fire is greater than it was 20 years ago. Toxic fumes and high temperatures make it difficult for firefighters to reach the scene of the fire.
So while it is certainly true that an EV can catch fire, the likelihood of this happening does not seem to be any greater than for an internal combustion engine car.