“Are electric cars safer than petrol cars?” This is a question that asked by many when going for an EV. Both conventional vehicles and the electric car catch fire in accidents. And it’s not always necessarily electric car catches fire as soon as collision happens. Electric car fire gets more attention than conventional car fire (Why?)
A petrol car fire hazard happens by the below reasons
- Vehicle accident
- Electrical short-circuit
- Engine overheating etc.
In all the above-mentioned scenarios, the situation gets worst if fuel gets burned. Highly inflammable fossil fuel catches fire as soon as it exposed to high temperatures.
How electric car fire hazard happens
Electrical related issues such as short-circuit are the reasons for an electric car fire.
The battery may catch fire when it’s short-circuited. The most used electric car battery – Lithium-ion battery – is made up of packing many cells together. A short circuit of a cell generates more heat and adjacent cells get damaged. A thermal runaway happens in the battery if the spread of heat is not prevented.
A thermal runaway is the most common electric car fire incident. Sometimes it happened very slowly.
More heat gets generated in cells due to the chemical reaction in electrolytes as a result of short-circuiting. It eventually leads to a fire hazard.
Battery seems to be a dangerous product. Once I tried to carry a battery bank to charge a mobile phone in the check-in bag of an airline. They didn’t allow me to do so. Of course, it might explode due to pressure or other reasons.
An electric car battery is kept at the bottom of the vehicle so that to make the vehicle more spacious and to pull the center of gravity down.
If the battery gets fired, it affects the whole vehicle and seems more dangerous than that of a gasoline vehicle fire.
How to prevent Electric Car fire
Safety always matters in every engineering products. Electric Vehicle battery is also protected from fire hazard using many methods.
Thermal runaway and electric car battery fire should have been prevented for safety.
Thermal management of electric car battery plays a role to prevent a fire hazard. Apart from that, it keeps the battery warm during winter.
The liquid cooling system in battery prevents the thermal runaway of adjacent cells up to an extent. Tesla uses a liquid cooling system and Nissan Leaf goes for an air cooling system.
Fuses disconnect the battery when the sensors of the car detect even a remote chance of fire hazard due to collisions, short-circuit, etc.
This kind of fire hazard prevention is not applicable to conventional vehicles.
A thermal separation between battery and passenger compartment is another feature that prevents the chances of spreading of an electric car fire.
Tesla confirmed and added titanium underbody shield and aluminum deflector plates to their Model S to separate battery and passenger compartment since 2014. Read this blog post from Elon Musk.
Gasoline cars vs Electric Cars in Fire Hazard
Petrol, diesel, and gas are highly inflatable fuels. They are being kept in the tank of a vehicle and mounted such that the impact is minimal when collides.
In opposition to gasoline cars, fire spreads out of battery-electric cars slowly. The car detects a potential chance of fire and lets the passengers get out of the car before it catches fire.
Sometimes it takes days to catch an EV fire after having short-circuit in battery. Thermal management and fault detection identify chances of fire.
Information to the passengers can help them to get out of the vehicle during a potential EV fire incident. Gasoline cars cannot have such protection since it’s so explosive.
Even though the numbers are not comparable 1 in 8000 EVs catches fire which is 5 times less than gasoline cars, according to Musk.
Again the same question: Are electric cars safer than petrol cars?
We could say that based on the available statistical data (which are minimal since less popularity of EVs) electric cars are more or less safer than gasoline cars.
What would you think about the fire hazard of electric vehicles? Please comment below and share the post. 🙂