Electric vehicle fires multiplying at an alarming rate

The latest incident in which a bike burned down a building in the Bronx once again calls the reliability of lithium batteries into question.

There have been many recent fires caused by electric vehicles. This week, a building in the Bronx suffered extensive fire damage after an electric bicycle battery caught fire. Seven people were injured in the accident, in addition to the extensive material damage.

The fire started when the bicycle's battery was charging in a grocery store. The fire, caused by the lithium battery, soon consumed the ground and upper floors. The intervention of about 200 firefighters was needed, five of whom were injured. The building was burned to the ground, all because of a bicycle.

Fourth leading cause of fire-related deaths

While the accident did not cause any fatalities, New York Mayor Eric Adams recalled at the scene of the tragedy that, since 2021, 11 people have lost their lives due to electric vehicle battery failures. Another 251 were injured for the same reason in the Big Apple during the same year. According to data from the New York Fire Department, lithium-battery vehicles are already the fourth leading cause of fire deaths in the city, even ahead of electric space heaters.

The mayor's warning is no coincidence. Motor experts agree about the great danger posed by lithium batteries. Charging, parked or driving, they have the capacity to ignite and cause a fire much more powerful than that of a normal car. The composition of lithium batteries means that, in high temperatures, incorrect charging or a significant impact can set them ablaze.

Ford recalls

Ford had to recall a batch of 18 electric F-150 Lightning trucks from the market a few weeks ago. The company made the decision due to potential battery failures after reports of a truck catching fire in Michigan. Ford's electric pick-up, for no apparent reason, began to burn while parked in a Dearbone, Mich., parking lot.

In Florida, the alert also grew after Hurricane Ian. Six electric cars caught fire, Florida Phoenix reported, not only due to material damage to the structure of the car. Those that were immersed for some time in salt water also caught fire. Salt can easily short-circuit lithium batteries and cause a fire, as Victoria Hutchison, project manager at the Fire Protection Research Foundation, explained at the time.

1800 F fires

The battery of an electric car can reach temperatures as high as 1832 F. This is much hotter than fires caused by gasoline-powered vehicles. Electric vehicle fires require fire departments to use of up to 20,000 gallons of water. In the Netherlands, a burning electric vehicle had to be submerged in a tank of water for several hours to be extinguished.

Faced with this threat, fire departments across the country, aware of the new danger, are preparing new protocols specific to electric vehicles. The task is complicated by the protective battery box, which prevents the hoses from effectively reaching the source of the fire. "Industry and EV manufacturers have to do a better job with either offering training or more information about dealing with electric vehicle fires," Richard MacKinnon, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, told Telegram.

This is especially relevant to Tesla. Elon Musk's car company often hogs all the limelight when it comes to electric vehicles. On the internet, several sites are dedicated to counting the number of Teslas that have burned up, such as tesla-fire.com. According to the page, 182 Tesla fires and explosions have been recorded worldwide, and 53 have people died in these incidents.

Another Twitter account, @TeslaqJ, compiles all accidents involving Tesla vehicles. There have been an astonishing number recorded, and every day, new images of lithium batteries burning are shared.