New technology can be a fascinating thing as we investigate the pros and cons of it. Self-driving cars, for example, have been lauded for how they can improve safety and navigation for people and the trucking industry. They’ve also been criticized for potentially taking jobs away from people and not being an acceptable substitute for the experience and situational awareness of a human being. Meanwhile, electric and hybrid cars have been lauded for their fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness. But there have also been a number of reports about the batteries in these cars bursting into flames. How valid are these concerns?
Before answering how valid the concerns are about hybrid and electric car batteries catching fire, it’s helpful to know what these batteries are. For the most part, the batteries used in these vehicles are lithium-ion. These are the same type of batteries that are often used in cell phones and laptops. Due to the materials used to make them, these batteries offer a lot of energy at a much lower mass than other batteries do. This makes them very useful in portable devices, and because of their high-temperature performance, it makes them work well in motor vehicles.
Yes, car batteries can catch on fire–but it’s not just car batteries. Any lithium-ion battery has the potential for failure. For example, back in 2006, computer manufacturer Dell had to recall approximately 4-million laptop batteries due to them being a fire hazard. A similar situation occurred with Samsung when their Galaxy Note 7 batteries were reportedly catching on fire and exploding. Some of these incidents caused serious injuries and burns, and experienced injury attorneys helped pursue compensation. As for electric cars, Tesla experienced a number of car battery fires in 2019, with three of them happening across Shanghai, Hong Kong, and San Francisco.
If there’s one “good” thing about a gasoline fire, it’s that extinguishing them is relatively easy. We have chemicals that can cut off fuel to the fire and appropriately smother it. The issue with battery fires is that the fuel sources in these batteries are self-contained. A battery can burst into flames but not all of the fuel is being used, as many of the cells in the battery can remain untouched and undamaged. This means that a battery fire can start, be extinguished, and then re-ignite as partially damaged battery cells degrade further and ignite. This can be especially hazardous after a crash, as a resulting fire can leave accident victims, and objects in the surrounding area, exposed to a fire that may be very difficult to put out. Even though these types of incidents may be uncommon, the unusual nature of them also presents a unique danger. This is also why if you’re involved in such an accident, it’s important to find an auto accident attorney who’s well-versed in how automotive technology has evolved.
Electric cars have the potential to help our environment and pocketbook tremendously. Like all technology though, they have their growing pains they need to go through. As we continue to adapt and learn, we also need to be aware of the dangers associated with these vehicles and their high capacity energy sources. ELG Law has experienced attorneys who dedicate themselves to knowing how to handle auto accidents of all kinds. We know, as do automotive companies, about the risk of fire, and know how to represent our clients in these types of cases. Call us for a free consultation at (623) 321-0566.