A Review of Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles

Peiyi Sun, Roeland Bisschop, Huichang Niu, Xinyan Huang

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

385 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last decade, the electric vehicle (EV) has significantly changed the car industry globally, driven by the fast development of Li-ion battery technology. However, the fire risk and hazard associated with this type of high-energy battery has become a major safety concern for EVs. This review focuses on the latest fire-safety issues of EVs related to thermal runaway and fire in Li-ion batteries. Thermal runaway or fire can occur as a result of extreme abuse conditions that may be the result of the faulty operation or traffic accidents. Failure of the battery may then be accompanied by the release of toxic gas, fire, jet flames, and explosion. This paper is devoted to reviewing the battery fire in battery EVs, hybrid EVs, and electric buses to provide a qualitative understanding of the fire risk and hazards associated with battery powered EVs. In addition, important battery fire characteristics involved in various EV fire scenarios, obtained through testing, are analysed. The tested peak heat release rate (PHHR in MW) varies with the energy capacity of LIBs (EB in Wh) crossing different scales as PHRR=2EB0.6. For the full-scale EV fire test, limited data have revealed that the heat release and hazard of an EV fire are comparable to that of a fossil-fuelled vehicle fire. Once the onboard battery involved in fire, there is a greater difficulty in suppressing EV fires, because the burning battery pack inside is inaccessible to externally applied suppressant and can re-ignite without sufficient cooling. As a result, an excessive amount of suppression agent is needed to cool the battery, extinguish the fire, and prevent reignition. By addressing these concerns, this review aims to aid researchers and industries working with batteries, EVs and fire safety engineering, to encourage active research collaborations, and attract future research and development on improving the overall safety of future EVs. Only then will society achieve the same comfort level for EVs as they have for conventional vehicles.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFire Technology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020


  • Electric vehicle
  • Fire incidents
  • Fire suppression
  • Fire tests
  • Heat release rate
  • Li-ion battery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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