Since the introduction of electric vehicles, many questions have been posed concerning their safety. The most prevalent concern seems to be fires. Because these vehicles use batteries there is an opportunity for what scientists call thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is when an increase in temperature changes the surrounding conditions in such a way that it leads to another increase in temperature and continues in that vein until the temperature becomes destructive, ie: causes a fire.

In electrical engineering, thermal runaway typically means an increased current flow did not dissipate correctly, heating the electrode in the battery cells until a chemical reaction causes more heat and then ignites the electrolytes in the battery cell. Most fully electric vehicles have the type of battery that has a history of causing vehicle fires: the lithium-ion battery. Most hybrids use a nickel-metal hydride battery.

Jeff Dahn, a professor of physics and chemistry at Dalhousie University says in an article by technologyreview.com that when batteries are used as intended, there is only one fire for every 100 milliion lithium-ion battery cells out there. The fires in the Tesla 6’s back in 2013 were mostly caused when metal objects penetrated the cell pack. Since then Tesla has increased the protection around the cell pack.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, electric or hybrid vehicles do not have a greater risk of fire than any other motor vehicle. All vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. The NHTSA is still conducting an in-depth investigation into whether an alternative fuel vehicle is more likely to catch fire than a traditional gasoline powered vehicle. They have produced guidelines for dealing with electric and hybrid vehicles that every driver should know.

There have been class action lawsuits against Ford, Volkswagen, and General Motors for fires caused due to electrical defects for years. Car fires are not a new thing. The public is only concerned about the batteries causing fires because the technology is new and unknown. Once we get used to all the new components and are assured of their safety, there won’t be this distinction between fires occurring in electric vehicles and fires occurring in gas powered vehicles. The NHTSA does acknowledge that fire risk increases with vehicle age across the board.

Whether your vehicle is six months old, six years old, or six decades old, it’s important to regularly check the NHTSA website for recalls and defects to keep yourself and your family safe. They work tirelessly to bring us up-to-date data and information that can save lives. On November 24, 2015, the NHTSA reported that traffic fatalities decreased slightly in 2014, but projections based on the first six months of 2015 show an increase. Be vigilant out there.

If you are injured in crash or feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

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