Just how safe are electric cars? Fire fears were hyped up during the 2012 election season based on a bogus misconstrual of a fire following a Chevy Volt crash test. A few Tesla Model S’s did catch fire however, following a battery pack puncture. The handful of electric car fires is small in comparison to the rate of gas car fires but that hasn’t stopped hype and fear.
Here’s a test of the Nissan Leaf battery cells demonstrating they don’t catch fire even when clearly punctures or set on fire with a propane torch. When in the car, these cells are encased in a stainless steel case and further enclosed in a large metal box. Even though these cells have a low probability of catching fire, Nissan’s engineers protected them very well.
A puncture test like this is the same condition causing the Tesla Model S fires and the one Chevy Volt fire (that followed a crash test). What causes the fire is a short circuit of the battery material, and the energy release quickly causes fire. All that’s released in this case is a puff of smoke.