Electric Car Safety: How To Avoid EV Fires

Date May 10, 2021
Blog category car insurance
By Staff Writer

A BMW i3 that caught on fire recently has gotten many people talking about safety when using vehicles like hybrids and electric vehicle (EVs). A spontaneous vehicle fire, one not caused by an accident, often always makes the news in dramatic fashion, just by how absurd it all seems. However, electric cars don’t just randomly catch fire. Most of the time, it could be a long-overlooked issue. There are many possibilities for this. Here are some of the most common causes of electric car fires:

Fuel System Leak

Obviously, one of the most common causes of vehicle fire is in the fuel system. A leak in your car’s fuel system can be very dangerous as it only takes 7.2 degrees celsius for petrol to ignite from a spark. Even more dangerous is the fact that petrol will ignite by itself once temperatures reach 257 degrees celsius. Normally, combustion should remain inside the cylinders of your car but when you have a leak, this process might occur outside, leading to devastating results.

It’s not just fuel lines as well. Engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluids are also flammable. It’s why you should always conduct regular maintenance on your vehicle, especially with anything containing fluids. Aged and perished fuel lines should be picked up immediately and you should immediately get your vehicle checked the moment you start smelling petrol in spots they’re not supposed to be in.


Electrical System Problems

Electricity is always eager to supply the spark needed to ignite petrol so electrical damages do rank almost as high as fuel problems in terms of causing vehicle fires. Of course, electricity problems do not stop at just causing petrol to ignite. In terms of hybrids and EVs, battery charging cycles can also cause explosive hydrogen to build up under the car’s bonnet, increasing the level of fire risk involved. It’s a rare incident but it can happen.

Hybrid and full-electric vehicles also have to consider their high-capacity battery packs in case it gets punctured, leading to a fire. Keeping your car in top condition via regular maintenance will be essential in preventing this. Keep an eye out for any loose or frayed wires around the car at all times.

Engine Overheating

Cars technically run on a series of controlled explosions and ignitions so it is essential for vehicles to have good cooling systems in place in order to prevent excessive heat from building up.

Of course, cooling systems do fail from time to time, so it’s still essential to have this component checked regularly to ensure smooth operations at all times. Never ignore a warning light on the dash and never dismiss your temperature gauge suddenly going up.

Cooling is an important component for EVs since their cooling systems tend to be even more complex in order to help keep battery temperatures down. This isn’t something you can ignore just because you’re not using a petrol-based vehicle, so always get them checked during regular maintenance.

Problems with the Catalytic Converter

Catalytic Converter is an exhaust emission control device which helps reduce toxic pollutants and gases. It does this by catalyzing a redox reaction in order to turn toxic emissions into less-toxic pollutants. This process requires high temperatures to function properly as well yet they are often overlooked as a potential cause for vehicle fires.

Converters can overheat when they’re working too hard which is often the result of the car not working efficiently. They may be converting more pollutants than it’s designed to process. Converters operate around 650 to 870 degrees Celsius but when overworked, they can easily get up to more than 1,000 degrees so always be careful.

Again, regular maintenance can help check this component. Also, pay extra attention to any warning lights or warning chimes while you’re driving out on the roads.


Design Flaws

Of course, despite the billions of dollars sunk into their development, car design flaws can still sneak in certain models. They are incredibly complex machines so it may not always be easy for anyone to realize that their car has something wrong from the get-go.

While design flaws rarely cause spontaneous vehicle fires by themselves, their main issue is that it exacerbates problems should something go wrong. 

The best defense for this is to keep an eye on updates. Pay attention when the manufacturer looks to recall certain models. It may be a rare occurrence but it does happen. When you're driving electric cars, always make sure your software is up-to-date. 

The Bottom Line is Regular Maintenance

The most important thing to keep in mind here is regular maintenance. A lot of these possible problems can be prevented if you conduct regular maintenance on your vehicle. If you have the technical know-how, you can easily DIY this, provided doing so won’t void any warranties on your vehicle. Otherwise, you can just look for dealers that can help conduct maintenance on your behalf.

Most importantly, try to keep your car insurance updated. In the case of accidents and yes, vehicle fires, having insurance can be handy for shielding you from liability, ensuring you don’t lose so much money. Many dealers also offer add-ons to help with maintenance costs, so it’s always good to compare your options.

Cars are very expensive investments to make so it’s just important to take care of them well. The more broken parts like wiring, fuel systems, cooling systems, and iffy seals there are, the chances of something breaking down increases. So always conduct proper maintenance, ensure any accessories or modifications are installed correctly, and always drive safe outdoors!