Why Do Electric Vehicles Catch Fire?

EVs have taken over the automotive industry like wildfire in recent years. But what happens if the vehicle catches fire? 

Electricity is often associated closely with the cause of fire in domestic households. And this is the very essence that runs through every inch of your electric vehicle. So it will not be a complete enigma if an EV ever decides to become a blazing torch for no apparent reason.  

Now the question emanates, why do electric vehicles catch fire? 

9 Reasons Why Electric Vehicles Catch Fire?

According to a study, EVs are less likely to erupt in flames than their alternatives. 25 out of every 100,000 electric vehicles sold caught fire. For the same number of combustion engine cars, 1,529 caught fire. 

Although electric vehicle fires are rare, here is why one might catch fire.

1. A Manufacturing Defect in the Battery

Most electric vehicles use a lithium-ion battery for their operation. The manufacturer usually approves the battery after an array of tests and keen observation. 

Inadvertently, the manufacturer might fit in a faulty battery more prone to malfunction and catch fire.

2. An Electrical Short

Lithium-ion batteries go through a thermal runaway during a malfunction. Microscopic metal particles can interfere with different parts of the battery and cause a surge in electricity flow between the two electrodes.

Mild short circuits may result in a little elevation in the battery’s temperature. But a substantial amount of microscopic metal particles accumulating at one spot can cause the cells to explode and catch fire.

3. Stress on the Battery

Letting the battery go through a great ordeal without allowing it to rest can put the battery under built-up stress. Such as charging the car right after a long run without letting the battery cool down.

Another potential cause of a great deal of wear and tear on the battery could be too much vibration. Vibration beyond the Lithium-ion battery’s capability can cause a fire risk.

4. Battery Damage Due to an Accident

External trauma to the battery, such as during a car crash, can be an emanating cause of a fire. A blow from the outside could set forth a thermal runaway chain reaction.

A thermal runaway reaction causes an increase in temperature and pressure inside the battery cell. High temperatures inside the battery act as a catalyst for the gas to explode and envelope the vehicle in flames. Flammable gas is also released.

5. Age of the Battery

The age of the battery can also play a significant role in an EV catching a fire. It is because old batteries are more susceptible to fire than new batteries. Old batteries have served their life. Putting them under any burden exceeding their capacity is similar to digging your own grave.

Age is not just a number! At least in this case.

6. Quality of the Battery

We recommend you use only the designated battery and charging cable certified by the original manufacturer. Using a counterfeit or a knock-off from a local seller can cause damage to your vehicle. It is similar to heartburn experienced by humans after eating from a local and untrusted restaurant. 

7. Overheating the Battery

Placing the battery in direct sunlight or in hot vehicles without adequate ventilation can cause overheating. Charging the EV battery immediately after running can cause an increase in temperature since the cells in the battery remain hot for some duration. 

Some places are vulnerable to extreme heat during the day. Indigenous EV users should always find somewhere cool to park, for example, under a tree.

8. Poor Battery Management System

If poorly maintained, the components inside the battery are degraded. The owners and the mechanics do not manage with competent software intelligence. 

Tarun Mehta, chief executive officer (CEO) of Ather Energy, gave an Interview. “EVs are going mainstream irrespective, but with better quality products, this will become a no-brainer.”, he said to the news.

Better BMS can further curb the percentage of fires in EVs.

9. Quality of Charger

Although a cliche, you should always use quality chargers. Using any third-party charger carries its risks with it. They tend to be cheaper but can disrupt the proper charging of the battery.

Furthermore, using a damaged and faulty charger can cause adverse effects on the battery and the vehicle. Buying an original charger might be expensive, but your life is priceless.

Advancements Made in Evs to Prevent Fire

1. Thermal-Based Safety Precautions

Most modern batteries automatically switch off at high temperatures. Adverse weather of around 45-55 °C initiates the safety protocol installed in the battery. It causes the EV to cease to work. 

2. Tightly Controlled Manufacturing

Ceramic layers are added to prevent accidental shorts in the cells. This will earth the spark and eliminate any further fires otherwise. It also impedes any external penetration.

3. Robust Thermal Management

It is a protective covering that efficiently maintains an operating temperature for the battery. It keeps the ambiance of the battery cells within an appropriate range. This inhibits overheating of the battery.

2020-2022 Electric Vehicle Fire Accidents by Brand 
Electric Vehicle Brand Name  No of Fire Accidents
BYD 11
Donfeng 7
Tesla 5
Li Auto 5
XPeng 4
Changan 3
Chery 3
Geely 2
Yudo 2
Zotye 2


How to Prevent Fire in EVs? (3 Ways)

1. Only Use Authorized Batteries and Chargers

Original products come with a warranty. They have undergone stringent testing and follow the strict guidelines set by the relevant authorities.

Any other manufacturer or unauthorized seller is a gamble. 

2. Allow Proper Ventilation

The lithium-ion battery generates extensive heat. So it is necessary to heed the instructions set forth by the manufacturer. For example, do not over-charge the EV for long durations as it can cause overheating and subsequent fire.

3. Proper Maintenance

Inspect your battery periodically for damage before use. If you observe any damage or anomaly, report it to the manager without hesitation.

Slacking off could cost you just more than your car.

Even a company of TESLA’s stature has experienced its car catching fire for no apparent reason. But this does not mean that EVs are a ticking time bomb ready to explode without prior notice.

In reality, it is the least likely out of all the vehicles. EVs are statistically more fireproof than a hybrid and a conventionally powered engine. Overall, EVs are about 0.3% likely to catch fire, while gas cars are 1.05% likely to ignite. 

Proper maintenance and proper vigilance can prevent any undesirable outcomes. Just like any other vehicle EVs also need a caring owner. Engineers continuously strive to make EVs state of the art, but even though EVs are getting more robust and reliable, manufacturers have established guidelines.

As long as we follow the guidelines and keep checking on our EV, there is little to be worried about.

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