Unsafe At Any Speed? Electric Cars Keep Catching FireIn Vancouver, Canada, in late May, a Tesla Model Y burst into flames while the driver was waiting for a light at an intersection. He had to kick out a window to escape.
Around the same time, a new Tesla burst into flames in Brooklyn, Illinois, and a week before that a Model 3 caught fire in California City, California, while it was parked in a driveway.
In April, a deadly lithium-ion battery fire occurred in a Tesla car crash in Houston.
Last year, a Tesla caught fire while charging overnight in a garage, which the Washington Post described as “one in a string of recent examples showing what can happen when electric cars are left parked in garages to charge overnight” and which promoted electric vehicle (EV) makers to warn “owners not to leave the cars charging unattended in certain circumstances, or sitting fully charged in garages.”
Tesla recently ordered a recall of almost 130,000 cars because of an “infotainment” system issue that threatened to overheat during “fast charging.”
We’re not trying to single Tesla out here. It isn’t the only one having problems with its lithium-ion batteries.
A March 31 house fire in Damascus, Maryland, caused by a charging Chevy Volt resulted in $350,000 worth of damages.
Last August, GM recalled all the 110,000 Chevrolet Bolt cars it had sold “due to the risk of the high-voltage battery pack catching fire” and warned owners to park their cars away from buildings and other cars. As of April, GM had replaced the batteries on only about a quarter of the recalled cars.
Chevrolet recalled about 110,000 of its Volt EV model years 2017 to 2022 for potential battery fire issues.
In France last month, two electric buses spontaneously exploded, resulting in all 149 electric buses being pulled from service.
Electric scooters in India have been catching fire, and let’s not forget about the Samsung Galaxy 7 phone that had to be recalled after its lithium-ion battery started catching fire.
Shippers are increasingly wary, too. Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines is the latest to say it won’t transport used EVs on its cargo vessels.
But don’t worry, we’re told. Electric vehicles result in far fewer fires than their gas-powered cousins.
From 2012 to 2021, Tesla reports that there was roughly one Tesla vehicle fire for every 210 million miles driven, which compares to one fire per 19 million miles driven for all vehicles.
“The difference between Tesla and the average is 11:1, which is a big win not only for Tesla but in general, for electric cars,” writes Mark Kane in InsideEVs.