Interesting data. The statement that only five percent of vehicle fires start in a crash stands in stark contrast to my preconceived notions.
The discrepancy between hybrid and EV fires is extremely counter intuitive to me. The principal difference between ICE and ICE / battery hybrid vehicles is the presence of a high power, high energy electrical system. The data seems to suggest that this system poses a significant fire hazard, but only in the presence of an internal combustion powerplant, which doesn’t make much sense.
My first thought was that it might have something to do with the vehicle duty cycle, since EV’s are typically bought as a second car and see less intensive use on more developed roads that ICE vehicles. However, the article demonstrates a shocking lack of subject matter expertise, which leads me to suspect that there is something fishy about the data. The second paragraph contains this little gem:
Gas-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles use a 12-volt lead acid battery to start the car. The electrolyte, a mixture of sulfuric acid and distilled water, that creates electricity in a lead acid battery rarely ignites under normal driving conditions.
In fact the electrolyte is entirely incapable of sustaining combustion under any reasonable circumstances (if you have FOOF or chlorine trifluoride laying around then you have greater problems than your battery acid catching fire), and the oxidation of water into hydrogen peroxide is even an endothermic process. Still, lead-acid batteries pose a fire hazard if over charged, due to the formation of hydrogen and oxygen, which has led to a number of boat fires and injuries to technicians. This is the sort of thing you should know if you want to write an article about vehicle fires.
That’s immediately followed by this:
Extremely combustible fluids (engine oil or transmission, power steering and brake fluid) are why an ICE vehicle could burst into flames.
All of those will burn, if either misted or heated far beyond their normal operating temperatures. That’s not what is meant by “extremely combustible”. This sort of drivel is usually a strong indicator of non-contextual data and incorrect conclusions, so I had a dig through the references. Maybe for example the statistics were compiled without correcting for vehicle age, mileage or operating enviornment?
Indeed, the referenced AutoinsuranceEZ article has this little tidbit:
In older vehicles, the wiring and batteries start to break down, putting them more at risk of catching fire in an accident. Since most electric vehicles aren’t yet at the advanced age of older gas vehicles, there currently isn’t any data showing if they will be at a higher risk of battery and electric explosions as they age.
Yeah, if the statistic is based on annual sales figures and fire incidence alone, it is worse than worthless, transcending incompetence into outright dishonesty. Why would they present those conclusions, with cute little graphs and all, before quietly pointing out that there is no data to support the claims with a disclaimer that is itself grossly misleading? I suspect that they were driven by the lust for sensational conclusions, so that they could be quoted by idiot journalists in DIY publications, but I will be very entertained if our resident conspiracy theorist cooks up a spicier theory…
Anyway, back to the subject at hand: For RORO fire hazard analysis we want data on how often vehicles spontaneously catch fire when turned off, and for PCTC fires in particular it would be useful to know how often this happens with brand new vehicles. I suspect that EV batteries pose a significant hazard in this regard, due to the presence of large amounts of stored energy in an intricate matrix subject to manufacturing flaws.
I can think of better things to do with my last precious days of summer than spreadsheeting insurance data, but it would surprise me if there isn’t some rigorous and scientifically sound work in the field already.
Oh, and that claim that only five percent of vehicle fires start in an accident? That’s just bullshit, directly contradicted by the linked sources. I wonder where Mr. Handyman came up with that one?
P.S: @KPChief don’t you know that Moloch compels us to regress all the way to the local minimum?