04.1 EV fires - Overview
An overview of EV battery fire incidents
Every quarter our team provides an overview breakdown of verified electric vehicle battery fires in the form of a one page infographic.
As our research continues through to early 2024, with thanks to continued funding from the Australian Department of Defence (Defence Science & Technology Group), we're able to provide comparisons on cause, circumstance, ignition, vapour cloud explosion & connection to charging.
Passenger electric vehicles:
Traction battery fires (global), 2010 to present
We've identified that EV fires happen in these circumstances
From this timeline, these are the situations where a battery short circuit has led to thermal runaway, resulting in a traction battery fire.
Fires while connected to energised charging
As the key focus of this project, we've identified a number of traction battery fire incidents while the electric vehicle was connected to energised charging.
The challenges & additional risks to emergency responders attending a fire in this situation is explored in greater detail on the 'Risks to responders' page.
While a number of traction battery fires had occurred while the vehicle was charging, or when charging had been recently unplugged, it's difficult to state with any accuracy whether charging was the cause of the fire.
Vehicle impact due to collision or debris
Fault during battery manufacture
The most common cause of a traction battery fire is a collision or debris on the road creating a hole or impaling breach of the battery pack.
Despite stringent safety procedures, there are several proven or suspected battery faults that have caused a traction battery fire.
In early 2021, Hyundai announced a recall of 615 Kona & 208 Ioniq EVs in Australia for the complete replacement of the traction battery due to a manufacturing fault. These were part of a global recall of 77,000 Konas & 5,700 Ioniqs with batteries supplied by the LG Chem battery plant in Nanjing, China.
Submersion in water
While it's uncommon for an electric vehicle to be fully submerged in water, our research found three recorded incidents. Salt water can cause a battery short circuit through ingress into the battery casing & damaging the inbuilt safety system or by creating an electrical arc.
Only one case of overheating was found to be the cause of a traction battery fire.