Researchers Purposely Set Fire To Plug-In Electric Cars


Model S Fire Investigation Now in "Case Closed" Status

Model S Fire

Electric car fires were one of the topics at the 2015 SAE World Congress.

In the video from The National Fire Protection Association tests, we already saw that extinction of EV fire could take a lot of water (more than a conventional car). recently described tests of the Chevy Volt’s (16-17 kWh li-ion) and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid (4.4 kWh NiMH).

There is really no shock hazard for the fire team, although there is always a risk of re-ignition of a hot battery. One of the tests described in article Full-scale Fire Tests of Electric Drive Vehicle Batteries indicates that re-ignition occurred 22 hours after fire was extinguished.

“The overall goal of this research program was to develop the technical basis for best practices for emergency response procedures for EDV battery incidents, with consideration for suppression methods and agents, personal protective equipment (PPE), and clean-up/overhaul operations. A key component of this project goal was to conduct full-scale fire testing of large format Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries as used in EDVs.

This paper summarizes the full-scale fire tests performed, reviews the current emergency response tactics, and discusses what, if any, tactical changes relating to emergency response procedures for EDV battery incidents are required.”

Separate work on electric car battery fires Fire in electric cars in Norway concerned the Peugeot iOn. Researchers first increased temperature of the battery pack to some 150-200°C, at which point the cells went into thermal runaway. Flames were observed after 9 minutes and temperature reached 800-900°C with peaks at over 1,000°C.

Both articles are available to read in preview mode.


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15 responses to "Researchers Purposely Set Fire To Plug-In Electric Cars"
  1. Nix says:

    This isn’t really new. EV companies have been warning First Responders of this for a while now. Here is what Tesla’s First Responder’s guide says:

    “there is a risk of the battery re-igniting. After a Model S has been involved in a submersion, fire, or a collision that has compromised the high voltage battery, always store it in an open area with no exposures within 50 feet.”

    1. Mike777 says:

      Can’t Wait for the Hydrogen Bomb cars to show up in testing, get your popcorn, the fireworks are going to be GREAT.

      1. offib says:

        Toyota and the likes did say that the tanks can withstand any crash ot bullet, but not if the interior and the rest of the car caught fire. It would be interesting if they can withstand the increasing volume of gas if it were to be heated to 1000C.

        Most likely, Toyota would ask for some exception regarding crash testing on its Mirai again.

        1. JakeY says:

          If it is anything like CNG tanks, there should be a pressure relief valve that will vent the gas in the tank as pressure builds up. Of course that vented gas will ignite but it is better than the tank exploding (which has happened to CNG tanks with failed pressure relief valves).

  2. Nigeria: Runaway oil tanker kills 69 in horrific explosion at bus station.

    “The tanker was laden with petrol when its brakes failed on Sunday (31 May 2015) night and it ploughed into the bus station at Onitsha, the capital of southern Anambra State, according to local officials.”

    1. Nix says:

      Yup. Transportation requires stored energy. Stored energy always poses the risk of that stored energy being released in an accident.

      Heck, even when horses were our primary means of transportation, there were hay fires that burned down barns.

      As long as we store energy, there will be accidents that suddenly release that stored energy.

      1. Speculawyer says:

        Indeed . . . whether it be hydrogen, gasoline, Li-Ion batteries, CNG, biofuel, compressed air, or whatever. All stored energy systems are dangerous. All can (and will) have catastrophic failures.

        They are probably not equally safe/dangerous but they each have different advantages & disadvantages.

  3. Note at the 800-1000°C of the research many parts to modern vehicle will melt.

    Aluminum (Al) 659°C
    Brass (85% Cu 15% Zn), 900-940°C
    Bronze (90% Cu 10% Sn), 850-1000°C
    Copper (Cu) 1083°C
    Iron (Fe) 1530°C
    Gold (Au) 1063°C
    Lead (Pb) 327°C
    Magnesium (Mg) 670°C
    Silver (Ag) 961°C

    Of note the all Aluminum body of a Model S, or doors and hood of a LEAF would melting as would the copper wiring and bus bars in the battery.

    In comparison the “Flash Point” of gasoline is 230°C. The flashpoint is the temperature that a substance auto-ignites without a spark, or external ignition source. (ie: K-BOOM!!)

  4. Randy says:

    If gasoline was proposed as a new motor fuel today it would never pass the safety tests. Highly flammable and likely to leak in a collision and sure to explode in a fire.

    1. Lensman says:


  5. Nicholas says:

    Thats a lot of horrible air pollution.

    They need to vacuum up the smoke and recycle as ewaste whatever’s left/

    1. Nix says:

      You do realize that gas cars release that same energy content worth of combustion gasses too, right?

      They simply release those combustion gasses slower and over larger distances so they aren’t as obvious to the naked eye.

  6. Steven says:

    So if a car with a battery (hybrid or BEV) is on fire, after the fire is extinguished, it must be stored in a chamber devoid of oxygen to prevent sustained combustion?

    1. JakeY says:

      No. Just store in open area so if it reignites nothing else will catch on fire and it’ll burn itself out.

      The metal oxide cathode in the cells carry their own oxygen source so even without external oxygen, the fire can still go on as long as there is enough heat to get the metal oxide to release that oxygen.

    2. Nix says:

      In the end, they would need to fully discharge the battery, and physically recycle it.