News of two self-ignited electric vehicles within two days fueled concerns about EV safety in China.
Tesla and Nio, the makers of the cars that burned, confirmed the incidents on Monday and said they are investigating. Both cars were parked, no one was injured, and it remains unclear what caused the fires.
What might have been the cause, and how unsafe are these new-energy vehicles? The head of research and development at a large automotive company told Caixin that most electric cars catch fire because of their batteries, but the probability of such incidents should be fairly low ― if carmakers are strict enough with their quality control.
The batteries ignite most often because of short circuits, and fires can spread rapidly, according to the auto expert. However, if the battery cells are of high enough quality to meet safety standards set by Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, less than 10 in 1 billion battery cells would have such problems. Based on the number of cells in Tesla’s batteries ― more than 4,400 ― the probability of such an incident for Tesla’s Model 3 would be one out of 226,000 vehicles if it uses “safe enough” battery cells, the expert said.
“Such ratio is already better than for traditional cars, but it is hard to come true in reality,” the expert told Caixin.
A battery technician from another industry leader told Caixin it is almost impossible to completely eliminate the risk of fires, but battery makers and carmakers should work together to minimize the risk of battery fires.