Electric Vehicle Charging Sparks Multiple House Fires, Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Damage Caused


About three weeks ago in Ashburn, Virginia, there was an electric vehicle charging malfunction that started a fire in a garage and caused more than $15,000 in damages.

That was not the only fire sparked by an electric vehicle, WTOP News reported.

In Damascus, Maryland, on April 1, a fire started from an electric car charger in a garage and caused $350,000 in damages.

Four days later in Bethesda, Maryland, a scooter overheated while charging and started a fire in an apartment, WTOP reported.

In and of itself, these are not terribly remarkable events.

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The damages are unfortunate, but not catastrophic.

But when looking at the broader picture of the problems tied to electric vehicles, it is worth noting.

Though many like to advertise electric vehicles as flawless, the way of the future and the green energy solution, EVs still have problems — just like any vehicle.

As EVs become more common, the risk of fires associated with these vehicles cannot be overlooked or underplayed.

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There is a particular danger when EVs catch on fire because their lithium-ion batteries are especially flammable, CNBC reported.

“[E]lectric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries burn hotter, faster and require far more water to reach final extinguishment … And the batteries can re-ignite hours or even days after the fire is initially controlled, leaving salvage yards, repair shops and others at risk,” CNBC reported.

How do lithium-ion batteries catch on fire in the first place?

A battery can short circuit, which could happen if the battery cell is punctured or exposed to heat, say during a collision. Then they can combust, Forbes reported.

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Lithium-ion batteries can even spontaneously combust if there is silicon expansion or dendrite formation. If that happens, then the battery can produce “a spontaneous fireball explosion that heats to 1300°F in milliseconds.”

In April, for example, a deadly lithium-ion battery fire occurred in a Tesla car crash in Houston, Texas. It took firefighters more than four hours and 30,000 gallons of water to put out the blaze, Forbes reported.

These facts of EVs have to be recognized.

All vehicles have risks and can be deadly. But somehow, since the political messaging around EVs has been all about how they are good for the environment and how they are the way for humans to move forward and stop relying on gas, there has been a real downplaying of the risks still involved.

Politicians, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have continually pushed for government funds to be directed at advancing infrastructure for EVs.

In May of 2021, Cortez even unveiled new legislation to enact the Biden administration’s charging infrastructure goal.

“Actions policy makers take now can help ensure the U.S. leads in the deployment of the vehicles and infrastructure of the future — and that working people and communities see the gains from the clean economy,” said Zoe Lipman, Director of Manufacturing and Advanced Transportation, BlueGreen Alliance at the time of the new legislation.

But there needs to be a recognition of the real risks of EVs — not just a political focus on their advantages.

UPDATE, July 29, 2022: Online insurance broker researched auto fires by type of car using data from the National Transportation Safety Board, Bureau of Transportation Statistics and and concluded “that despite the focus on EV fires in the news, they are not inherently more dangerous than gas or hybrid vehicles, although electric fires tend to be more difficult than gas fires to extinguish.”

Perhaps more importantly, the independent, nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute in a study of “electric and conventional versions of nine models from 2011 to 2019” concluded that electric vehicles may be considered significantly safer than similar conventional models because “rates of injury claims related to the drivers and passengers of electric vehicles were more than 40 percent lower than for identical conventional models over 2011-19. This result is similar to an earlier HLDI study of hybrid vehicles, and one likely explanation is that the large batteries used in both types of vehicles make them substantially heavier than their conventional counterparts. Occupants of heavier vehicles are exposed to lower forces in multivehicle crashes.”

The Western Journal is adding this information to this story as important context regarding the safety of electric vehicles in general.

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