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Do electric cars catch fire? Social media points fingers at EVs for Luton car-park blaze

Do electric cars catch fire? Social media points fingers at EVs for Luton car-park blaze

After fires broke out in a car-park at Luton on Wednesday, potentially destroying over 1,500 cars, one unsupported theory about the cause of the blaze quickly circulated on social media.

Several videos were shared online of huge fires at Luton Airport, seemingly contained to a multi-storey car-park.

Due to the proximity to cars and anecdotal evidence of electric vehicles catching fire, some members of the public are already theorising that the blaze could have been started by an electric vehicle.

However, the risk of electric vehicles (EVs) catching fire is statistically very low. Here’s what we know about the fire at Luton Airport.

What happened at Luton Airport?

Tens of thousands of passengers had their travel plans disrupted by the vehicle fire, as it spread throughout the car-park and caused it to collapse.

Originating on level three of the airport’s terminal two car park, it’s believed that the fire started with a diesel-powered vehicle “and then that fire has quickly and rapidly spread”, according to Andrew Hopkinson, Bedfordshire’s chief fire officer, while speaking to the BBC.

A witness who discovered the blaze said that she found the car on fire and left to find an extinguisher. As she returned, the vehicle exploded and she could no longer get near it.

Why are some people blaming EVs for the Luton fire?

While there is already a working theory from on-the-ground professionals that the fire originated from a diesel-powered car, many people have posted online that they worry it came from an EV.

This could be due to anecdotal stories about EVs catching fire while charging, something that does happen on occasion - as outlined in the Washington Post, there is a risk of fires from rechargeable batteries used in electric vehicles.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) warned this year that fires involving lithium batteries are “the fastest growing fire risk in London”.

For example, the LFB reports that it has been called to, on average, an e-bike or e-scooter fire once every two days, compared to just 116 fires in 2022.

Do electric cars often catch fire?

On the other hand, EV FireSafe found about 0.0012 per c ent of electric passenger vehicles caught fire between 2010 and 2023. This compares to a 0.1 per cent risk of diesel- and petrol-powered cars catching fire, more than 80 times the rate found for electric vehicles.

In general, then, it seems that while the LFB warns against electric scooters and bikes, the risk of electric cars catching fire is much lower — although not unheard of.

Is insurance more expensive for electric cars?

According to the RAC, insurance can be generally more expensive for EVs than their petrol/diesel counterparts, partly due to electric car models being newer. This means that replacement parts are more expensive on the whole.

EVs also need specialist mechanics to work on them, which can increase insurance costs.

Some car insurance policies will also have specialist policies, such as cover for charging cables, adaptors, and wall boxes for accidental damage, fire, and theft, that are not necessary for diesel/petrol cars.