The following article is taken from Fleet EV News here.

At the 2022 Australasian Fleet Management Conference Emma Sutcliffe, Project Director at EV Firesafe, provided a great presentation on the risk of electric vehicle fires using data from an Australian research project designed to help First Responders when they are dealing with an EV fire.

She starting by dispelling the myth that there’s a high chance an electric vehicle in your fleet will catch fire. The research shows EV fires are very rare and that ICE vehicles are more likely to catch fire than an EV.

According to the research conducted by EV Firesafe, up to July 2022, there had been 246 electric vehicles catch on fire since 2010 in a global market of 16 million cars. The number of fires has increased each year as more cars hit the roads and Tesla is over represented in the data because of their high market share.

The main concern for emergency services is the EV traction battery which is constructed using multiple lithium ion cells to form a battery pack and is normally located underneath the vehicle. The traction battery is at risk of catching fire when damaged or punctured.

And according to Sutcliffe, they don’t catch fire like an ICE, the batteries experience a ‘thermal runaway’ which is when one or more of the cells are damaged and there’s a short circuit. It causes the heat to build up within the cells to a point where it is self-sustaining. Then when it gets too hot, the energy is released as gases. Initially as a great cloud, then as a white vapour cloud. This is the sign that something is going wrong.

When planning your EV infrastructure, there are some recommendations for Fleet Managers from this research to assist emergency services if they need to respond to an electric vehicle fire at your work or home.

Here are some of the tips provided by Sutcliffe:

  • Know the type of battery construction and location in the vehicle
  • Know the signs of thermal runaway
  • Design and implement safe charging hubs which include isolation switches, access for emergency services, evacuation plans
  • Perform regular visual inspections of EV cables and charging stations cables
  • Know your Emergency Response Guide (ISO17840)
  • Be alert, not alarmed when you suspect a battery might be damaged