Occasional reports of electric cars catching fire have made the news, which has — in turn — led some observers of the automotive space to conclude that electric cars are more likely to catch fire than their internal-combustion counterparts. There are plenty of reasons for this, from arguments made in bad faith by people opposed to EVs to the larger media coverage that greets a electric vehicle bursting into flame as opposed to a comparable situation involving a gas-powered vehicle.
As it turns out, if you take a bigger-picture view, the odds of an EV catching fire are significantly lower than a gas-powered car or truck. (E-bikes are a very different story.) This is something that publications covering the automotive industry have pointed out relatively regularly — including Autoweek this August.
Now, an especially comprehensive example of this kind of investigation has seen publication, from Jasper Jolly at The Guardian. Jolly evaluated data from a number of sources and came to an unambiguous conclusion: “the probability of being caught in an EV fire appears overall to be much lower than for petrol or diesel cars, based on currently available data.”
Jolly cites data from Norway, Sweden and Australia, all of which comes to the same conclusion: your electric car or truck is a lot less likely to catch fire than a comparable internal combustion vehicle. (Also: the risk of any vehicle catching fire is very low.)
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In reporting on this issue, Jolly does note one caveat: electric vehicle fires seem like they can be worse than their internal combustion vehicle counterparts. There are two caveats to that caveat as well, though. Jolly notes some conflation between electric car fires and the more devastating ones occurring around electric bikes and scooters; the other caveat is that fire departments are still developing the best way to deal with a burning electric car.
Even with that in mind, the data is pretty clear: if your vehicle potentially catching fire is the hurdle keeping you from buying an EV, you don’t have as much to worry about as you may have thought.
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