Auto Service World
News   February 11, 2022   by Adam Malik

What type of vehicle catches fire most often?

Riley Edwards / Unsplash

A common worry among potential electric vehicle owners is the possibility of a fire. But the fear appears to be overblown, according to new research.

Turns out, hybrids lead the way when it comes to the risk of catching fire — electrics are least at risk.

Electric vehicles catching fire and being recalled for such risk grab headlines — stories about Teslas catching fire without warning came up last summer; Chevrolet recalled its electric Bolt over concerns about the cars spontaneously combusting while parked and charging.

But insurance aggregator recently examined statistics from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Bureau of Transportation Statistics and recall data around fires for gasoline, hybrid and electric vehicles.

It found that hybrid vehicles reported 3,475.5 fires per 100,000 sold. Gas vehicles accounted for 1,529.9 fires for every 100,000 sold. Electrics saw just 25.1 fires at the same rate.

In the fall, Hyundai recalled 130,000 2017 Tucson and Sonata hybrids in Canada and the U.S. This came months after 390,000 other Hyundais were recalled for two problems that could cause a fire in the engine.

For both hybrid and electric vehicles, all recalls were related to battery issues. Compare that to gas-powered vehicles where issues around fuel leaks, electrical shorts, and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) led to recalls.

When an EV or hybrid catches fire, though, it can be more difficult to deal with than one in a gas vehicle.

“Electric automobiles catch fire less frequently than gasoline-powered cars, but the duration and intensity of the fires can make them considerably more difficult to put out due to the use of lithium-ion battery packs,” explained Axel Hernborg, CEO of Tripplo, a South Africa-based software module company. “Lithium-ion batteries are notoriously difficult to keep cool. Even after appearing to be turned off for 24 hours, the batteries can generate enough heat to re-ignite.”

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4 Comments » for What type of vehicle catches fire most often?
  1. Geoff says:

    This seems a tad misleading. Hybrid can be somewhat grouped in with electric. considering the stark contrast in ratio between gas to electric / hybrid vehicles, it seems like a problem that electric / hybrid represent more than twice the amount of incidents.

    • Guillaume says:

      Actually, EV=BEV+PHEV or, if you prefer, plugins. Hybrids are not EV. But there’s no mention in the paper about PHEV. We assume they are included in EV but it’s not clear.
      Also, I don’t know if the age of the cars has been taken into account.

  2. Suk says:

    Nonsense. Hybrid and electric are distinct and separate classes of vehicles. The NTSB is not going to mistakenly classify a hybrid as an electric, nor vise-versa.

  3. Ron says:

    Ah, … the petrol vehicle trolls are in denial. Hybrids rely mainly on their petrol/gas engine, whereas EVs are fully battery powered. But even if we treat hybrids as a distinctly different group, petrol/gas only vehicles are many, many times more likely t catch fire than EVs.

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