Do electric cars catch fire more than gas-powered vehicles?

Not at all. Statistics don’t bear that out. Based on the best information available, electric cars pose no greater risk of catching fire than gas-powered vehicles. In fact, electric cars are likely to be less dangerous in terms of fire risk than gas-powered cars, according to the most conclusive and recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The federal report states: 

“Regarding the risk of electrochemical failure, the report concludes that the propensity and severity of fires and explosions from the accidental ignition of flammable electrolytic solvents used in Li-ion battery systems are anticipated to be somewhat comparable to or perhaps slightly less than those for gasoline or diesel vehicular fuels. The overall consequences for Li-ion batteries are expected to be less because of the much smaller amounts of flammable solvent released and burning in a catastrophic failure situation.”

While electric vehicle fires have captured the headlines, the vast majority of highway vehicle fires are in gas-powered cars, even when correcting for the relative numbers on the road. According to FEMA, from 2014-2016, when less than 1-percent of cars on the road were plug-in electric, “an estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States, resulting in an annual average of 345 deaths; 1,300 injuries; and $1.1 billion in property loss. These highway vehicle fires accounted for 13 percent of fires responded to by fire departments across the nation.”

That’s an average of 469 vehicle fires a day, before electric cars were at all common on the road.

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