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Published on December 31st, 2018 | by Zachary Shahan


Gas Cars Have Much Higher Risk Of Fire Than Electric Cars — #CleanTechnica Report

December 31st, 2018 by  

Earlier this year, we published a free report on EV safety, The EV Safety Advantage. As we approach the end of the year, we’re publishing sections of that report as articles here on CleanTechnica.

In this section of the report, we tackle the topic of fires. Which is more at risk of fires — gasoline cars or electric cars? Well, of you know the answer — it’s in the title.

EV Risks? Or Not So Much?

Below is a summary of topics considered to be of potential risk with electric vehicles. We’ll dive much more into the first topic in most of this article.

Fire & Electric Shock Risk

⇒ Highly mediatized accidents involving fire especially three Tesla Model S accidents.

⇒ However ICE cars are fundamentally more exposed to fatal fire risks than their electric counterparts, as the deadliest fires are mostly due to flammable liquids located in the engine area.

Danger for Pedestrians

⇒ Hybrids and electric vehicles are so quiet that pedestrians can’t always hear them coming. NHTSA last year finalized a rule requiring the vehicles to make noise but has since delayed the effective date.

ICE (Gas & Diesel) Cars are Fundamentally More Exposed to Fatal Fire Risks than their Electric Counterparts

Highway Vehicle Fires


⇒ Fires that originated in the engine area were by far the deadliest: 34% of all deaths.

⇒ Fires that originated in the fuel tank accounted for only 2% of all highway vehicle fires but 13% of fatal highway vehicle fires and 14% of deaths.


⇒ The leading factor contributing to the ignition of highway vehicle fires was mechanical failure (44%).

First Ignited Item

⇒ First ignited items in fatal highway accidents: Flammable liquids and gases were the most deadly (63% of deaths).

Fuel in or from the engine area was the second leading item first ignited in all highway vehicle fires (18%) but was, by far, the leading item in both fatal fires (36%) and deaths (37%).

Even in Case of Collision, ICE Vehicles are More Likely to Catch Fire than Hybrid Vehicles

Methodology & Dataset Composition


⇒ FARS1 to determine the characteristics of fatal crashes.

⇒ NASS/CDS2 to explore the factors associated with injuries.

⇒ NASS/GES3 used for computation of exposure in this study.

Cases analyzed:

⇒ Case year 1999–2013.

⇒ Model year 2000+.

⇒ Cars, light trucks and vans only.

⇒ Only AIS2+4 injuries.

1 Census of all traffic fatalities in the US.

2 Sample of ~4,000–5,000/year in-depth crash investigations with exhaustive details on injuries suffered.

3 Database of 60,000 crashes/year sampled from US police reported crashes.

4 Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) ranks injuries on a scale of 1-6 based on the threat to the life of the occupant. AIS1 is a minor injury and AIS6 is an unsurvivable injury.

Light blue = hybrid vehicles. Dark blue = conventional gas vehicles.

Incidence of Fire & Electric Shock

⇒ In fatal vehicle crashes extracted from FARS, incidence of fire was found in 2.6% of hybrid vehicles and 4.4% of conventional vehicles.

⇒ Vehicle fire was also very rare in NASS/CDS: no hybrid vehicle in the sample experienced a vehicle fire.

⇒ Similarly only 0.05% of hybrid vehicles in the NASS/GES sample were involved in crashes with fire incidences.

⇒ No case of electric shock was found in the dataset for either hybrid, electric or conventional vehicles.

For more on this topic, download The EV Safety Advantage, a free report from CleanTechnica.



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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in NIO [NIO], Tesla [TSLA], and Xpeng [XPEV]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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