Do electric cars catch fire faster? – DW – 07/27/2023

A fire on a ship carrying almost 3,000 cars in the North Sea claimed the life of one person. Several crew members were injured, the Dutch coast guard reported on Wednesday (26.07.2023). the car carrier Fremantle Highwayregistered in Panama, was about 27 kilometers north of the island of Ameland when the fire broke out on Tuesday night.

Apparently, one of the 25 electric cars on board burned down, causing the fire on the ship traveling from Germany to Egypt and carrying 2,857 cars. Some 350 vehicles are of the Mercedes-Benz brand, the German automaker confirmed.

The accident revives the debate about the danger of electric cars. On social networks, for example, videos are circulating that apparently show electric vehicles on fire. However, these videos are rarely truthful, as a DW investigation has shown.

Is there an increased risk of catching fire?

The crew failed to put out the fire on the cargo ship “Felicity Ace”, which sank in the Atlantic. Image: Portuguese Navy/AA/picture alliance

However, tragedies, such as the Felicity Ace freighter, which sank about a year ago, fuel questions about the safety of electric vehicles. The ship covering the route from the German city of Emden to the United States caught fire, and attempts to put out the fire failed as more electric cars caught fire.

Ultimately, the crew was forced to abandon the ship, which sank off the coast of the Azores, burying nearly 4,000 cars, including Porsches and Bentleys, at the bottom of the sea. Until now, it has not been possible to confirm whether a faulty battery caused the fire.

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Experts such as accident investigator Markus Egelhaaf of the German motor vehicle inspection association Dekra and Dana Meißner of the Institute for Safety Technology and Naval Safety in Rostock-Warnemünde come to the conclusion that electric cars do not represent a increased risk of fire.

Is there a risk of fire with electric cars?

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According to a Meißner study, all cars with license plates must meet certain legal requirements, which guarantee the greatest possible safety for the driver and passengers, regardless of whether it is a diesel or gasoline engine, a liquid fuel propellant or a an electric motor.

However, the Allianz insurance company points out that a burning electric car is problematic because it can catch fire again, as a result of a kind of thermal chain reaction. Hence, to put out a fire, large amounts of water are needed over a longer period of time, the newspaper cites. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Anastasios Leonburg, Allianz Maritime Risk Advisor. But due to the expense, many ships do not have the necessary equipment, he continues.

Good crash test results

However, electric cars are built in such a way that, in the event of a defect or accident, the electric current that feeds the battery is automatically interrupted. Hence, it is unlikely that an electric car will catch fire in an accident. According to the ADAC automobile club, electric vehicles often even perform better in crash tests than conventionally powered cars.

The firefighters have also reached similar conclusions: ADAC experiments have shown that the intensity of the fires does not depend on the type of propulsion, but above all on the materials used in the manufacture of the vehicle, especially plastics.

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