x
Breaking News
More () »

Yes, electric car battery fires burn hotter than an engine fire in a gas car

Researchers are still investigating the risks electric cars may pose.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Electric vehicles are still a relatively new technology and researchers are studying their potential risks.

It seems Americans are curious about the new cars too.

One viewer recently asked us about electric vehicle battery fires, saying she's seen on the news that these fires burn hotter than fires in gas-powered vehicles.

THE QUESTION

Does an electric vehicle battery fire burn hotter than an engine fire in a gas car?

THE SOURCES

  • Emma Sutcliffe, director of EV FireSafe, a research project based in Australia looking into the risks of electric vehicle fires to first responders.
  • A study from Hong Kong Polytechnic University on battery fires in electric vehicles
  • FEMA

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, an electric vehicle battery fire burns hotter than one in a gas-powered car, and quite a bit hotter.

WHAT WE FOUND

First, it's important to understand what's inside an electric vehicle. It consists of two sections of batteries. 

The first is a 12-volt battery. It's used to power windows and heating/cooling.

The second is a high-voltage traction battery, giving the car momentum. Researchers say it's the high-voltage traction battery with individual battery cells that poses the most risk for a fire in an electric car.

Sutcliffe's team found that while electric vehicle battery fires are rare, they act differently than a fire in an internal combustion engine.

"What we have seen in early testing and early reports is that an electric vehicle battery fire flame can burg up to 2,700 degrees Celsius," Sutcliffe said. 

In U.S. terms, that's nearly 4,900 degrees Fahrenheit. FEMA says in traditional vehicles, fire burns around 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sutcliffe explained it's important to understand what's going on inside the batteries of an electric vehicle if it catches on fire.

"You've got a lot of enormous amount of energy stored in these in these fairly small little battery cells," Sutcliffe said. "And the greater the charge on the car. So if I've just charged my electric vehicle up to 100%, I've got this huge amount of energy in that battery pack. And that can cause a more kind of a violent, hotter burn, you know?"

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify. 

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out