Australian battery fire monitoring body EV FireSafe has sounded the alarm over the sharp rise in battery fires in light electric vehicles (LEVs) in the first half of 2023.
It said in this period globally there have been:
- electric vehicles: 44 battery fires, 15 injuries, 4 fatalities
- battery electric buses: 3 battery fires, 0 injuries, 0 fatalities
- battery electric trucks: 2 battery fires, 0 injuries, 0 fatalities
- LEVs: 500+ battery fires, 138 injuries, 36 fatalities.
Injuries in the LEV sector shot up from 62 in the first quarter and fatalities went up from nine in Q1 to 36 for the six-month period.
Reporting the data, Emma Sutcliffe, Director of EV FireSafe said: “World, we have an EV fire problem…but it’s not cars. There are now so many light electric vehicle (e-bikes, e-scooters) battery fires globally, we’re unable to keep track.
“We’ve verified 36 fatalities directly attributable to LEVs in the first six months of 2023, but suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg. If this trend continues, the number of deaths will at least triple from 2022.”
The organisation reported a poor risk profile of lithium-ion battery cells and battery management systems in some LEVs. They face a high degree of wear and tear in normal use and are commonly charged in people’s homes, which poses a high risk to life and property, it said.
Most incidents occurred with e-bikes, with 96 injuries and 29 fatalities, and most were in apartments, with 72 injuries and 22 fatalities.
It logged 15 fatalities in the US, seven in both the UK and Cuba, five in the Philippines and two in China.
EV FireSafe LEV specialist, Sara Mills, said in a blog yesterday that sales of LEVs are predicted to surge to A$19,185.6 million by 2030, a growth rate of 89.5% from 2021 to 2030, with approximately 40 million being sold in 2023 alone.
“The scary stats are these,” she wrote. “In 2022 we were able to track approximately 236 LEV battery fire incidents that caused 24 fatalities and 212 injuries requiring hospitalisation.
“According to these stats, in 2022 if you were unlucky enough to be involved in a LEV battery fire, you had a 7.8% chance of being killed and a 64% chance of being seriously injured, requiring hospitalisation.”
Of the 36 fatalities it tracked in the first half of 2023, nine were children, four were elderly or mobility impaired people, and 23 were adults.
“Heartbreakingly, we’ve lost four whole families to LEV fires in the past 18 months,” she said.
Mills said EV FireSafe technical specialist, Dan Fish, recently tested secondary ignition after being given a partially burnt e-scooter battery pack. He submerged it in water for three months before removing it and testing the voltage.
One partially burnt cell still read a voltage of 3.69 V.
EV FireSafe said the only country they can identify which has successfully implemented regulatory controls is Singapore. It introduced UL2272 and EN15194 standards for LEVs, combined with import controls on non-compliant devices by the Land Transport Authority.
A public awareness campaign on the dangers of illegal modification of LEVs reduced the incident rate 33% overall, with personal mobility device fires dropping from 102 in 2019 to only 14 in 2022.