The Challenges of Electric Vehicle Fires
Electric vehicles (EVs) provide a gateway to better air quality and reduced fuel costs. However, transitioning to electric cars on our roadways has a new challenge. Electric vehicles are equipped with lithium-ion batteries, and they can be extremely dangerous if they catch fire.
Telsa Fire in Rancho Cordova
While an electric vehicle catching fire is rare, it can still happen, like the recent incident in Rancho Cordova in January 2023. Sacramento Metro Fire responded to a report of a Telsa on fire on Highway 50 and soon realized how difficult electric vehicle fires can be.
Gas-powered vehicles can be extinguished with 700 gallons of water, usually carried by a single fire engine. On the other hand, electric cars use lithium-ion batteries, which take much more water and effort. Sac Metro Fire said crews battled the fire for three hours consuming 6,000 gallons of water before the fire was extinguished.
New Hazard for First Responders
Electric vehicle-related fires also create a new type of hazard for emergency crews. Captain Daniel Hoy with Sac Metro Fire said crews risk electrocution because those batteries still have stranded energy.
So far this year, Sac Metro Fire has responded to three Tesla fires. One was in an auto junkyard where fire crews had to dig a trench and submerge the vehicle in water to extinguish the fire. In the Rancho Cordova incident, crews had to tilt the car up with jacks and spray water directly into the bottom battery compartment.
Fire crews said they learn something new each time they fight an EV-related fire because there is no standard response for this type of emergency. They hope to develop better ways to address this issue in the next several years. Fire crews are also preparing to battle more house fires with lithium batteries since they are used in electric bicycles, scooters, and solar power systems.
As we continue to see more electric cars on our roadways, fire crews are bracing for more of these incidents. California aims to have five million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.
Highway Vehicle Fire Injuries and Deaths
Car fires are uncommon, but they often happen in the United States. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), about 33 vehicles in the U.S. catch on fire every hour.
Below are some key findings regarding highway vehicle fires:
- Over 212,000 vehicle fires occurred in the United States in 2018. Of those incidents, nearly 560 people died, and 1,500 others suffered burn injuries.
- Vehicle fires caused over four times the number of deaths as structure fires and nearly twice the number of apartment fire deaths.
- Between 2013-2017, four of every five people injured or killed in highway vehicle fires were male. About 44 percent were between the ages of 15 and 34, and 10 percent were 65 or older.
- Highway vehicle fires occurred most often between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- Mechanical and electrical failures or malfunctions were the most common causes of vehicle fires.
- The leading cause of vehicle fires that resulted in death was collisions.
- Big rigs have a higher rate of fatalities per 1,000 fires than highway car fires overall.
- Highway vehicle fires were most common from May through August, peaking in July.
- In 2017, Saturday was the peak day for deadly vehicle fires, followed by Sunday and Friday.
The YouTube video below from CBS Sacramento explains the difficulty of putting out electric vehicle-related fires.
Sacramento Personal Injury Attorney
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento personal injury lawyer. Protecting yourself and your family is your top priority, no matter what the cause of the vehicle fire is. Once you are safe, you can begin to understand what happened and go from there. If you have been severely injured in a car fire or any other accident caused by someone else’s negligence, call our experienced injury attorneys for free, friendly case advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.
Our legal team is available to help you and your family through this difficult time. Our California personal injury law firm has obtained successful Verdicts and Settlements for our clients since 1982.
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