As electric vehicles (EVs) have continued to rise in popularity, they have also been plagued by concerns over battery fires. That includes Teslas, as videos of the company’s cars catching on fire have gone viral and made the news on several occasions.
However, as the National Fire Protection Agency told Vox, reports of Tesla fires are far lower than the rate of highway fires overall, suggesting that EVs are at no more risk of catching on fire than traditional gas-powered cars.
According to Autoweek, fires are actually less frequent in EVs than in traditional gas-powered cars.
Of course, your Tesla is a lot more likely to go up in flames if some guy walks up to it, pours a bunch of gasoline on the hood, and sets it on fire. That’s what happened to one Tesla owner in Spokane, Washington, who was able to use dashcam footage to prove to the police that his EV battery did not spontaneously combust.
The Tesla owner said that local police officers told him at the time that EVs “tend to” catch on fire spontaneously, Electrek reported. He told local news that he was able to determine what happened when he reviewed the dashcam footage.
The misconceptions about Tesla fires did not arrive out of thin air — they seem to be based on misunderstandings of real problems that lithium-ion batteries pose.
One difference between EVs and gas-powered cars is that while gas fires tend to burn out quickly, lithium-ion battery fires burn incredibly hot for long durations, needing thousands — sometimes tens of thousands — of gallons of water to be extinguished, as Vox has reported.
In addition, concerns about some Teslas being shoddily assembled have fueled fears over what could happen if something does go wrong. One Tesla owner had to kick out the window to escape his burning car after the electronic components shut off, locking him inside.
In the case of the Tesla being intentionally set on fire in Spokane, the fact that the police initially reportedly botched the investigation based on their misconceptions about EV batteries is no surprise — investigators may lack the proper education to investigate arson, often relying on theories that have been repeatedly debunked.
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