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Research highlights lower fire risk in electric cars compared to petrol and diesel vehicles


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Recent research has shed light on the fire risks associated with electric vehicles (EVs), revealing that they are significantly lower compared to their petrol and diesel counterparts.

This finding comes amidst growing concerns and debates over the safety of EVs.

Electric cars less likely to catch fire

According to a study by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, electric vehicles are 20 times less likely to catch fire than petrol and diesel cars.

The study, corroborated by data from a US insurer using National Transportation Safety Board figures, indicates that battery-powered EVs suffer only 25 fires per 100,000 sold.

In stark contrast, petrol or diesel vehicles experience 1,530 fires per 100,000, with hybrid vehicles at a notably higher risk of 3,475 fires per 100,000​​​​.

Comparative fire risk in electric cars

The Conversation reported that the fire risk for petrol and diesel vehicles is between 20 and 80 times greater than that for EVs. This significant difference highlights the relative safety of electric vehicles in terms of fire hazards​​.

Statistics from the London Fire Brigade

In a practical context, the London Fire Brigade’s data aligns with these findings.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Air Quality News revealed that in 2019, the Brigade tackled 54 EV fires compared to 1,898 fires involving petrol or diesel cars​​.

Hybrid vehicles at higher risk

Interestingly, hybrid vehicles, which combine electric and internal combustion engines, present the highest fire risk.

Autoweek reported that hybrid vehicles experienced the most fires per 100,000 sales, with 3,474.5 fires, compared to 1,529.9 for petrol or diesel vehicles and just 25.1 for electric vehicles​​.

IFSJ Comment

This research is a significant revelation in the ongoing debate about the safety of electric vehicles.

The data clearly indicates that electric cars pose a much lower fire risk compared to petrol and diesel vehicles.

This finding is particularly relevant for fire safety professionals, policymakers, and consumers alike, as it provides empirical evidence countering the perception that electric vehicles are more prone to fires.

It also underscores the need for continued research and development in electric vehicle technology, not just for environmental benefits but also for enhanced safety features.

The lower fire risk associated with EVs could play a crucial role in their adoption, shaping future transportation policies and safety standards.

About Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles, powered by electricity stored in batteries rather than by burning fuel, have been gaining popularity due to their environmental benefits.

However, their safety, particularly concerning fire risks, has been a subject of scrutiny.

This latest research contributes to a better understanding of EVs’ fire safety profile compared to traditional petrol and diesel vehicles, offering a new perspective in the evaluation of their overall safety.

Read IFSJ’s explainer article on thermal runaway.

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