Do Electric Vehicles Pose a Greater Fire Risk than Gas Powered Vehicles?

Steven Risser, a leading expert in electric vehicle fire risk and senior research leader at Battelle, a global R&D organization, recently stated “A battery-powered vehicle having a fire incident is newsworthy. A gasoline-powered vehicle having a fire is newsworthy only if it stops traffic.” Are battery-powered vehicles more prone to catching fire than gasoline powered vehicles?

News headlines about electric vehicle (EV) crashes and electric car fires have lead many people to conclude that EVs are more of a fire risk than gasoline powered vehicles.  There are many variables involved, every situation is different, and the number of electric versus gas car crashes is small in comparison. EVs make up only a tiny portion of vehicles on the road today, and, when compared to gas-powered vehicles, mass-produced EVs are just beginning to come into the marketplace.

The National Fire Protection Association reported that there were 174,000 vehicle fires in the U.S. during 2015, with almost all of them involving gasoline-powered vehicles. This amounts to a gas-powered car catching on fire about every three minutes. Data is insufficient to make comparisons between the safety of EVs and gas-powered vehicles, since there is 130 years of design and experience with gas-powered vehicles. The automobile industry is still at the early stages of understanding how to make lithium-ion batteries safer. Although these batteries carry hazards gas tanks do not (such as containing their own ignition systems), early data suggests that EV fires may be isolated incidents that are not indicative of the overall safety of the vehicle.

If you have a case or claim involving a vehicle fire (electric or gas-powered), CED Technologies can assist.  We have several mechanical and electrical engineering experts who are Certified Vehicle Fire Investigators (CVFI) who can determine and analyze the origin and cause of vehicle fires.  To discuss the vehicle fire you’re working on, call us at 1-800-780-4221 or contact your region.