OPINIONS Baptism of fire for electric cars and their batteries


Baptism of fire for electric cars and their batteries

China Daily

08:35, April 24, 2019

Drivers charge their electric cars at a public charging station in Beijing. (Photo: China Daily)

AFTER A WHITE TESLA SEDAN burst into flames in an underground garage in Shanghai on Sunday evening, a NIO ES8 model went up in smoke in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, on Monday. China Daily writer Zhang Zhouxiang comments:

Because of the two incidents, many are saying it was a "gloomy Monday" for electric cars.

Some people joked that they no longer dare park in a space next to an electric car, with a few people even uploading photos on their micro blogs of lonely electric cars in parking lots, with all parking spaces nearby empty.

People can make jokes, but the danger of such accidents should never be underestimated. In the Shanghai case, video from a security camera shows that flames quickly rose from the Tesla model, spread to two cars nearby and damaged them. Fortunately, firefighters quickly arrived and the whole residential building was evacuated and no casualties were reported.

In the Xi'an case, there were no other cars parked nearby when the fire happened.

But public safety cannot rely totally on good fortune. If any similar accident happens in the future, people might not be so fortunate. A browse of past news reports shows that there were as many as 30 such cases in China in 2018 alone, involving one brand after another.

The two most recent cases are still being investigated, but the majority of experts conclude they must have something to do with the battery system, as in most of the past 30 cases. Thus it is probably safe to conclude that the battery systems of electric cars still need to be improved in terms of safety.

Some argue that traditional automobiles with gasoline engines also have the possibility of self-ignition. But their percentage of fires is much lower than that of electric cars. Considering the large numbers of electric bicycles and tricycles in China, the batteries of which might not be so good as those of electric cars, it is urgent and necessary to take the risks into consideration.

It is time the regulatory departments required the battery makers and electric car producers to improve the battery systems so as to improve safety. Before that probe comes to an end, other measures such as the vehicles' fire alarm systems and insurance requirements should be strengthened, so that even if similar accidents happen again, casualties will be avoided and losses minimized.

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