Hybrid vehicles experience the most fires — 3,474 — per 100K sales, followed by gas vehicles with 1,530 and electric vehicles, with only 25 fires per 100K electric vehicle sales, according to a recent study from AutoinsuranceEZ.
Based on this data, electric vehicles don’t catch fire nearly as much as the news claims, notes the report. That said, recent safety recalls provide data on specific fire hazards linked to electric vehicles.
In 2020, both hybrid and electric vehicle recalls were all related to battery issues. This is a stark difference from the gas recalls, which were recalled for issues with fuel leaks, electrical shorts, and anti-lock braking systems (ABS).
An estimated 560 people died in 2018 from car fires, with most of these fatal fires caused by collisions, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Car fires also caused an estimated $1.9 billion in property damage losses in the U.S., notes the report.
While all fires are dangerous, lithium-ion battery fires in electric cars are significantly harder to put out than gas fires, and most firefighters aren’t familiar with how to put out EV fires since electric cars are relatively new.
Electric car fires are harder to put out because the batteries can be very difficult to cool. Because of this, they can essentially ignite all by themselves because they are so hot. It can take up to an entire day for these batteries to cool down, so electric cars must be watched for a long time to ensure they don’t catch fire again.
But fleet drivers must be reminded to stay safe from all car fires. Experts offer the following advice:
- Keep an eye out for are any rapid changes in fuel or oil levels, as well as any leaking oil or electrical problems. If you recently got an oil change, but notice spilled oil, that may be a risk.
- If your car catches fire, you need to cut the ignition by turning it off and get out of there immediately. Don’t waste time getting personal items out; just get out as quickly as possible.
- Go far away from the car so that you are safely distant from flames and smoke, and call 911.
- To prevent your car from being a fire hazard, make sure to look for loose wires, leaking oil, and rapid changes in fuel and oil levels. Never forget to turn your car off and take the key out of the ignition when you pump gas.