Another electric vehicle fire recently made headlines, this time a Porsche Taycan, which went up in flames at a Florida home, burning the car and garage where it was parked.
But are EVs really more likely to burst into flames than cars that run on gasoline?
The aftermath was posted on Twitter, but it’s since been removed. No matter, it spurred replies from EV haters who used the fire as another opportunity to bash electric cars.
A Porsche spokesperson confirmed its car caught on fire, and said “We are relieved to hear that no one was harmed in this incident.” Porsche also said it’s helping with the formal investigation, but “it’s too early to speculate on the cause until the investigation has concluded.”
The fire has reignited misplaced fears that electric vehicles are prone to bursting into flames. Tesla is heavily scrutinized when one of its cars catches fire. But it’s important to understand that internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles — i.e. cars and trucks that run on gas — also burst into flames. And some data suggests it happens more often with gas cars than EVs.
Some stats from the National Fire Protection Association put things into perspective. For starters, there were 152,300 car fires per year in between 2006 and 2010. As the NFPA fact sheet states, “Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires,” meaning it wasn’t a crash that triggered the car fire.
It’s hard to separate how many car fires involved EVs and how many involve gasoline-powered cars because NFPA lumps them together as “passenger” vehicles in its research. But in 2010 there weren’t many all-electric vehicles in the U.S., considering Teslas weren’t widely available and the Nissan Leaf was just introduced that year.
Tesla, however, says that gas cars are 11 times more likely to catch fire than its own cars. From 2018 data, Tesla found its cars were involved in one fire for every 200 million miles driven. Based on U.S. Department of Transportation data, there was one ICE vehicle fire for every 20 million miles, which is 10 times more frequently.
And, yes, EVs have caught on fire while charging. But there was an average of 5,020 gas station fires per year from 2004 to 2008, according to the NFPA. No matter how you slice the data, fires aren’t just a problem for electric vehicles.