What's the Problem with Electric Car Batteries?
Unlike traditional lead-acid automotive batteries, newer high-voltage lithium-ion batteries that power Teslas and other electric cars can pose significant hazards. The problem is that lithium-ion batteries pack a tremendous amount of power into a tiny space, which increases the risk of overheating, fire, and explosion in the event of an accident or crash.
"A battery powered vehicle having a fire incident is newsworthy," said Steven Risser, an executive with the non-profit R&D firm Battelle and leading expert on the risk of fires in electric vehicles. "A gasoline powered vehicle having a fire is newsworthy only if it stops traffic."
Electric Car Battery Fire vs. Gas
The biggest difference between a lithium-ion battery fire and a gasoline fire is the time it takes to ignite, according to CNN Money. Gas fires start immediately when gasoline comes in contact with a spark or flame, and spread rapidly. Battery fires typically take some time to achieve the heat necessary to start the fire. However, it often takes many hours and thousands of gallons of water to extinguish an electric car battery fire, whereas gasoline fires can be contained and put out in a very short time. Additionally, electric car batteries have also been found to re-ignite and burn after fires have been put out.
Why Do Electric Car Batteries Explode?
- Car crashes and other accidents in which the batteries are suddenly damaged while being used;
- Short circuit within one or more of the battery's cells, which can generate heat and ignite the chemicals inside;
- Manufacturing defects in the batteries;
- Electric car batteries are subject to constant vibration and extreme heat, even during normal operating conditions;
- Extreme heat in the battery compartment can lead to a condition called "thermal runway," in which a short circuit causes a battery fire to build and spread to the other batteries.
- Batteries recharging in freezing or below freezing temperatures;
- Fully-charged batteries exposed to the sun,
- Batteries exposed to stress, such as crushing, compressing, or puncturing.
Man Dies in Tesla Fire After Doors Fail to Open
Oct. 28, 2019 - The family of a Florida man who died after becoming trapped in a burning Tesla Model S has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, according to the Washington Post. The accident occurred when Omar Awan lost control of his Tesla and hit a Palm Tree head-on, which made the electric car's lithium-ion battery catch fire. Smoke and flames filled the car, suffocating Awan and burning his entire body, according to the suit. The complaint alleges that Awan couldn't escape because the Tesla door handles malfunctioned, and first responders were unable to open the doors and save him.
“The fire engulfed the car and burned Dr. Awan beyond recognition — all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk,” the complaint states. “These Model S defects and others rendered it a death trap.”
Tesla Driver Killed by Fire, Not Crash, Lawsuit Alleges
October 10, 2019 - The father of an 18-year-old man who died in a Tesla crash in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has filed a lawsuit against the California car manufacturer, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Plaintiff alleges Tesla batteries are defective.
“Barrett Riley was killed by the battery fire, not by the accident,” the complaint states. "The May 8, 2018 crash was “entirely survivable.”
These allegations are supported by the Broward County medical examiner, who found that Riley died of injuries from the fire. His front-seat passenger also died. A back-seat passenger was thrown from the car but survived.
Tesla Crash Shows Electric Car Fires Could Strain Resources: ABC 7 Video
Can the Risk of Battery Fires in Electric Cars be Reduced?
Research is currently underway to design new materials which might not only make electric vehicle batteries lighter and more efficient, but could also potentially make them safer, according to ScienceDaily.
Can I File a Class Action?
Although Schmidt & Clark, LLP, is a nationally recognized class action firm, we have decided against this type of litigation when it comes to electric car battery fire claims. Our lawyers feel that if there is a successful resolution to these cases, individual suits, not class actions will be the best way to get maximum payouts to our clients. If you’ve been injured in an electric car accident, we know you’ve suffered emotionally and economically, and want to work with you personally to obtain the maximum compensation for the damages caused by your injuries. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights.
See other product liability cases we're currently taking.
Do I Have an Electric Car Fire Lawsuit?
The Product Liability Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in electric car accident lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an electric car battery fire or explosion, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and we can help.