Smart For-Two, while charging, in Wickford, Essex, England, July 2017

Copyright Stephen Huntley, The Daily Mail

(www.dailymail.co.uk) Electric car bursts into flames and burns to the ground after it was left charging overnight 'at a faulty power point' - July 9, 2017 - This fire occurred on a Sunday morning. The Smart For-Two was connected overnight to a charging station. The charging station clearly burned to a crisp, as did the car.

The article says temperatures were over 300 degrees Centigrade. It took two fire crews to extinguish the fire, and pictures show them pouring an immense amount of water on the battery pack. It's clear the car's battery pack caught fire, since burning lithium-ion batteries produce flames that hot.

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said:

'An electric car which was left on charge outside an office building has been 100 per cent destroyed and caused smoke damage to a building after catching alight. Crews were called to reports of a car fire this morning outside an office building. On arrival firefighters reported that the car was 100 per cent alight and that the building it was parked outside was becoming smoke-logged as a result.'

'By 6.25am firefighters had extinguish the fire, ventilated the building and ensured that the scene was safe. The cause of the fire has been recorded as accidental, and was due to an electrical fault.'

The article clearly says there was an electrical fault. But it isn't clear whether the problem was in the charging equipment or in the car.

Pouring on immense amounts of water; Copyright Stephen Huntley, The Daily Mail
Burnt charging station; Copyright Stephen Huntley, The Daily Mail

Autolib cars, while charging, in Paris, October 2013

(www.plugincars.com) Two Autolib Electric Cars Burn Down in Paris – October 16, 2013 – Two cars in Paris’ car sharing service burned on a Monday morning. One caught fire, with that fire spreading to the next car. The cause is unknown at this time, police are investigating. There is a pattern of vandalism-related car fires in Paris, but this instance doesn’t fit that pattern. Namely, the vandalism typically occurs at night on weekends, not during the day on a weekday in a good neighborhood.

An educated guess might be that because these cars have an unusual lithium-metal-polymer battery pack, that must remain 75 degrees C, and that a failure in that system could have caused the fire. This fire is not the first among the Bolloree Bluecars from the Autolib service, 25 have burned so far.

The takeaway might be that the car fire safety of electric cars depends on choosing battery chemistries that are relatively safe.

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.
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