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Beware fire risk in hybrid electric cars

A serious fire risk in electric cars has been highlighted in the past week.

Posted on 19 October 2020

Fires particularly in hybrid models have hit the headlines as it has become clear that battery packs situated close to fuel tanks present a serious risk.
Autocar has reported that BMW and Mini are recalling every plug-in hybrid variant. This includes the petrol-electric versions of 3, 5, 7 series, the X1, X2, X3 & X5, 2 Series Active Tourer and Mini Countryman PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), built between 20 January and 18 September 2020, as well as the I8, built this year up to the end of April. Owners should visit the BMW RECALL site and carefully enter their VIN or registration number to check their vehicle.  The recall relates to contaminants in the batteries which can lead to fires breaking out.
This Is Money also reported that Ford is recalling its hybrid Kuga SUVs , another Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, sold in the UK, (which affects 1,800 owners) The Kuga only went on sale in April. The recall relates to the danger of fire, as a result of the high voltage battery pack overheating, which is in close proximity to the fuel tank.  Again owners should visit the Ford RECALL site to make certain their vehicle is not affected.
A research article published in Fire Technology in January this year titled A Review of Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles (Sun, Bisschop, Niu and Huang), focused on “the fire safety issues of EVs related to thermal runaway and fire in Li-ion batteries”.  The article reports that the “failure of the battery may be accompanied by the release of toxic gas, fire, jet flames and explosion”.
They additionally write that “there is greater difficulty in suppressing (extinguishing) EV fires because the burning battery pack inside is inaccessible to externally applied suppressant (eg water /foam) and can re-ignite without sufficient cooling”.
In conclusion they comment “The fire risk and hazard of Li-ion battery (LIB) are particularly serious in EV, because of high demands in driving performance and speed, inevitable traffic accidents, and the increasing scale of energy density of battery packs”.
Leigh Day have a leading Fire Claims team who have dealt with fires caused by cars and lithium-ion batteries. If you would like to speak to an expert contact the FireTeam@leighday.co.uk