A small number of electric vehicles in Florida burst into flame during flooding caused by Hurricane Ian, and the fires are raising awareness about a previously little-known safety issue for the millions of Americans who have bought or are thinking of buying an EV.
They are also generating political heat, with some Florida Republican lawmakers calling for more regulatory oversight for electric vehicles. Florida’s State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis tweeted , “there’s a science experiment taking place in Florida with EVs and salty storm surge waters.” But experts note all vehicles use concentrated power sources — whether gasoline, diesel or electricity — making them all vulnerable to ignition. Statistics compiled by AutoInsuranceEZ found that for every 100,000 EVs, there are about 25 fires each year. That compares to 1,530 car fires in the same number of gas-powered vehicles annually. Gas-powered cars typically catch fire due to fuel leaks or crashes.
Hurricane Ian struck Florida ‘s Gulf Coast on Sept. 28, killing 118 people in Florida, four in North Carolina and one in Virginia, causing catastrophic damage worth more than $50 billion and flooding large areas. As of Oct. 26, USA TODAY has been able to confirm 11 cases in which EVs caught fire in Florida after flooding from Ian, all believed to be due to the cars’ battery packs shorting out after being submerged in saltwater or physical damage to the batteries during the flooding.
Six of the fires were reported by the North Collier Fire Rescue District based in Naples, Florida, and another four by other Collier County fire departments, said Heather Mazurkiewicz, public information officer with the North Collier Fire Control Rescue District. One additional fire was reported in Sanibel Island by the Sanibel Island Fire and Rescue District.