Yes, we know that so many gasoline-powered vehicles catch fire every day that only the most local of news reports bother to report on what happened nearby. Still, electric vehicles come under a magnified lens, which is why reports of a BYD E6 taxi catching fire in Shenzhen, China caught our eye.

BYD has been running all-electric E6s as taxis in Shenzhen since early 2010, which means there have been over two years of fire-less operations (as far as we know). Apparently, though, on 26 May three people riding in an E6 cab, including the driver, were killed in an accident. China Auto Web calls it "China's first fatal crash involving a high-speed pure-electric car" and notes that Shenzhen traffic police say that a drunk driver crashed a Nissan GT-R traveling at 112 miles per hour into the e6, which quickly caught fire then smashed into a third car, a gas-powered cab. The drunk driver ran from the scene, but later turned himself in. A person in the third car was lightly injured. This version of the story shows that the drunk GT-R driver is at fault, and we await news on if the E6's battery played a role in the fire.

You can see a video report on the incident (in Chinese) below.



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  • 42 Comments
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mysteriously they never talk about breakers and fuses in these electric cars.
        sandos
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Exactly how does a breaker or fuse help against fire? For firefighters, sure. They didnt talk about how the put out the fire, either...
        ELECTRIC4ME
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        I know that in the Leaf if the airbags are deployed, then the battery is instantly isolated too.
        goodoldgorr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        I won't buy any electric car if there is not sufficiant breakers and fuses.
          goodoldgorr
          • 2 Years Ago
          @goodoldgorr
          It's not fun to be seated into a fire hazard. Put breakers protection even on hydrogen fuelcell cars and trucks.
      Marco Polo
      • 2 Years Ago
      What amazes me, is that while driving on Shenzhen's chaotic and jam-packed roads, the GT-R driver was able to find to road space to accelerate to 12 mph, let alone 112 mph ! Obviously the PRC built BYD E6, lacks the sort of safety standards required in the West. It's rather sad to say, but it may a testament to the Nissan GT-R's superior build quality that the driver could run away ! Utterly irrelevant, to Western EV's, but I'm afraid any EV related fire story will continue to be big news until EV's become mainstream vehicles.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        "Utterly irrelevant, to Western EV's," Well, it will be very interesting to learn if the battery was responsible for the fire at all and what type of battery chemistry it was using. But yeah, this is not a vehicle that has been crash tested to US or European standards.
          marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Spec. Thank you for the correction. Yes, I should have written, "Utterly irrelevant, to Western EV's due to Western Safety standards".
      George Voll
      • 2 Years Ago
      Maybe Al Unser Jr. was racing a ZAP
      Doug
      • 2 Years Ago
      Made in China. That says it all.
      Nick
      • 2 Years Ago
      Anything will catch fire if you crash into it at 112mph.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        You have to have something flammable to start with, or no matter how hard you crash you won't have a fire.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Explode, yes. Burst into flames, no.
          Nick
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Nope, a water tank will explode when hit at high speeds ;)
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        Brick wall doesn't burst into flames, no matter how hard you hit it.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        There is a picture here: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/05/bydcrash-20120528.html That's a fireball, not seats burning and such. Somehow BYD have managed to make a near-explosive battery.
          JakeY
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          "That's a fireball, not seats burning and such." Hard to tell from the picture. With a proper ignition source (and a tiny bit of fuel like a bit of newspaper, so it's flames rather than just sparks), seats, interior plastics, and wiring are the quickest to start a blaze. I say what likely happened was something short circuited (doesn't have to be the battery, for example with the Volt it was an electronics board, not the battery) and started a fire, which reached the interior.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just looking at the damage 112 kph makes more sense. I doubt the GT-R driver would have been able to "run away" after hitting another car at 112 mph.
      Ryan
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's sad that the drunk drivers don't die very often in crashes they cause. I would like to see the Mythbusters do some 'extreme testing' to see what it takes to ignite a battery.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        Go on google and look up "liveforphysics battery testing" Should be the second hit. A forum member of our ebike community put this up. Pretty awesome.
      MarcCBR
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think the only problem with the e6 in this story is that it was hit by a drunk dumb a** going 112mph. More dangerous than any batteries could ever be are these high powered vehicles. If you really want safety put governors on these vehicles and breathalyzers in every vehicle.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 2 Years Ago
      seeing as an electric car shouldn't really catch on fire unless the batteries are volatile then it might well have been a battery fire. the other two cars didn't catch fire so it probably wasn't fuel splash. some design tweaks are probably in order
      Rick
      • 2 Years Ago
      I always thought it was Heat - Oxygen - Fuel was the cause of most fires Maybe it has changed Heat - Oxygen - Fuel - BYD.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can't work out how BYD have managed to make an electric car which catches fire using the chemistry they do for the battery, lithium iron phosphate.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        A fully-charged battery has a lot of stored energy. If the impact is in the right place, it can cause a short. Shorting a fully-charged BEV is like shorting a capacitor. The energy release can be extremely rapid, and will generate tremendous heat very quickly, enough to ignite something flammable nearby. Don't believe me, put an aluminum/magnesium bar across a fully-charged Tesla pack, and let's see what happens...
        brotherkenny4
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Electrolyte solvents are organic carbonates, which are similar to gasoline type hydrocarbons. They tend to be bound up in the porousity of the cathode and anode but can leak out if heated, and once vaporized are as flamable a gasoline. There is far less than in a gasoline car, and thus they are less vigorous fires typically, but never-the-less dangerous. It's also possible that the car that hit the BYD spilled a bunch of gas on it. Looking at the picture, I suspect the passengers of the BYD were already dead, or very close, before the fire got to them.
        Electron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        It is a rather weird report. The damage to the vehicles suggest speeds that weren't anywhere near 112MPH and even if they were I can't imagine how an EV battery could cause an instant fireball killing all occupants. I wonder what really happened , if there were really three people killed in the cab and what really caused their demise if there were.
          hypermiler
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Electron
          @ Electron > I can't imagine how an EV battery could cause an instant fireball killing all occupants. Sure, when it is a Chinese battery. > I wonder what really happened BYD's battery exploded upon impact.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      When a Nissan GT-R catches fire in a 112mph collision, that's normal. When a Chinese electric car catches fire in a 112mph collision, that means electric cars are dangerous and not ready for prime time. Right?
        hypermiler
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        2 Wheeled Menace > When a Nissan GT-R catches fire in a 112mph collision, that's normal. GT-R didn't catch fire in the collision. BYD E6 did.
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