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Do EVs burn more frequently than fossil cars?

Do EVs burn more frequently than fossil cars?

A parking garage in Atlanta in the US is banning electric cars (EVs), because they allegedly pose a major fire risk. But do they really? The local media outlet FOX5 turned to RISE Fire Research to find out. 
FOX5 Atlanta tells the story about Tonya Hicks, who for the past two years has rented a permanent spot for her EV in a multistory parking garage near her home.  

But then, in October, she received an email from the company that operates the building: EVs are no longer allowed to park there, because they represent a potential fire hazard. But does this rationale hold water? 

FOX5 looked to Norway, the country in the world with the largest share of electric cars (20 percent) of the total car fleet. 

Here the journalists found Dr. Ragni Fjellgaard Mikalsen at RISE Fire Research, who co-authored an investigation report after a large parking garage fire at Sola Airport in Stavanger, Norway in 2020.  

She explains:

“The Sola fire started in a conventional fossil-fuel car, and we have found no evidence that the electric cars in the parking garage contributed to a greater spread of the fire than could be expected from conventional fossil-fuel cars, since the batteries in the EVs most likely were not involved in the fire”

In addition, our parent company, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, has investigated the link between EVs and fire risk by using larger numbers and statistics. Among their conclusions in the report "Myths and Facts about Fires in Battery Electric Vehicles" we find:

• The probability of fire in EVs appears to be lower than for cars with a conventional internal combustion engine.

• If a fire occurs in an EV, the spread of fire can be limited with the same methods used in the case of fires in fossil-fuel cars, such as sprinkler systems and portable extinguishing systems.

• EV fires can be difficult to extinguish, and they can release flammable and toxic gases. However, toxic fire smoke is also emitted during fires in fossil-fuel cars, so the emergency responders always need to use protective equipment.

• However, there is one element of risk which is larger for EVs: An extinguished battery fire is more likely to re-ignite. It must be monitored carefully and for a long time.

Here you can learn more about RISE Fire Research offerings in testing and research related to battery safety and fire.

And here you will find our open research publications on fire safety related to batteries, parking garages and EVs.

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