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04 - What is an EV battery fire?

What do we mean when we say 'EV battery fire'?

Throughout our work:

  • An EV battery fire is one where the lithium-ion high voltage battery of a passenger electric vehicle is involved in fire, known as thermal runaway

  • A passenger EV is defined as BEV & PHEV - cars that use a high voltage (above 60V) battery to provide momentum to the vehicle, where the battery requires external plug-in power to charge up

We've looked at what an EV traction battery does, how it's constructed & where it's typically located, however please review the 'What is an electric vehicle?' page if you require further information.

An EV traction battery fire involves the battery going into thermal runaway (a concept we discuss soon) & causing a fire in the battery pack of a passenger electric vehicle.

What about EV fires with no battery involvement?

If an EV catches fire without involving the battery pack, it is treated like any other vehicle fire. We have not included non-battery EV fires in our database.

Our emergency responder online training sessions cover how to recognise an EV battery fire vs a combustibles fire. You can view those at


An electric vehicle that catches fire without involving the traction battery is suppressed like any other vehicle fire.

An electric vehicle traction battery that goes into thermal runaway & causes a fire, presents new challenges for emergency responders.

TL:DR? Watch this explainer video using a converted vintage Land Rover

If you want the short version of EV battery fires, this video covers all the basics, including what's inside an electric vehicle battery pack & how's it constructed. The video has been designed as an explainer for emergency responders.

Video credit: EV FireSafe

What are the challenges for emergency responders?

While there are a number of similarities to ICE vehicle fires, electric vehicle lithium ion traction battery fires present a number of emerging challenges that we're about to look at in detail, including:

Thermal runaway makes it difficult to extinguish a traction battery fire

Toxic vapour cloud of flammable gases poses respiratory & explosion risks

Even once suppressed, there is a risk of fire reignition due to thermal runaway

As a rapidly emerging technology, EV traction battery fires are not yet well understood by emergency agencies

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Which is why we've created this website - to better understand the risks to & challenges for...

...emergency responders, tow truck drivers, storage yards, wreckers, automotive workshops, auction houses, fleet managers, drivers & the general public from electric vehicle traction battery fires.

Based on our research & on discussions with experts from the electrochemistry, fire & emergency, electric vehicle & safety sectors, in this section we look at what we know about global incidents, progression of an EV fire, how thermal runaway occurs, explore risks, & a range of best practice suppression challenges & techniques.

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