Truth About Electric Cars
【Summary】A recent fire at a car park in London Luton Airport highlighted the fire risk associated with electric cars. The fire, which started in a parked diesel SUV, spread rapidly due to the thermal runaway of electric car batteries. Similar incidents have occurred on container ships and buses. As a result, car parks may need to be redesigned to accommodate the fire risk, leading to fewer parking spaces and higher charges.
On October 10, a fire broke out at the Terminal 2 car park at London Luton Airport, resulting in the destruction of around 1,500 vehicles. While the fire is believed to have started in a parked diesel SUV, a number of electric cars also caught fire, contributing to the intensity of the blaze. Electric car fires are particularly difficult to extinguish due to the nature of lithium-ion batteries, which can sustain themselves without a supply of oxygen. These fires emit toxic gases and require special gear for firefighters to tackle them.
There have been other instances of electric car fires, including two container ships carrying thousands of EVs that went up in flames. In February 2022, a fire on board the car carrier Felicity Ace resulted in the sinking of the vessel and the loss of its cargo of 4,000 vehicles. In July of this year, the Fremantle Highway cargo ship caught fire in the North Sea, allegedly due to overheated batteries in EVs on board. The fire on the ship reignited even after appearing to be extinguished.
The fire risk posed by electric cars has led to concerns about the design of car parks. A new report from building consultants Arup suggests that car parks may need to be more spacious to prevent fire contagion. This could mean wider parking spaces or cars being parked further apart, resulting in fewer parking places and higher parking charges. Additionally, local governments may need to build more robust multi-storey car parks to accommodate the weight of electric cars, which are often heavier than their petrol-powered counterparts.
Insuring electric vehicles is also becoming more expensive due to the cost of battery repairs. Damaged batteries are more prone to thermal runaways, which can lead to spontaneous combustion. As a result, some insurers have withdrawn coverage for certain electric car models or raised premiums to account for higher repair costs. Average annual electric car insurance premiums have risen significantly compared to petrol and diesel models.
The UK government's plan for the adoption of electric cars, called the ZEV Mandate 2024, will require a percentage of cars sold by manufacturers to be electric. This quota will increase over time, leading to a higher number of EVs on the road. However, this could also result in increased traffic congestion as EVs become more popular due to their lower running costs compared to public transport.
Toyota, a leader in fuel-efficient vehicles, has been developing alternative technologies to lithium-ion batteries. The company is working on advanced solid-state batteries that have the potential to power the next generation of electric cars. These batteries offer higher energy density, enabling longer range and faster charging times. Toyota has also been exploring ammonia-fuel engines, which do not release carbon dioxide when burned. These alternative technologies could reduce dependence on lithium and graphite, as well as offer more sustainable options for electric vehicles.
Despite the push for electric cars, sales of EVs in the UK have been slower compared to conventional cars. One reason for this is the lack of charging infrastructure and the frequent out-of-service status of charge points. EVs also tend to have a lower range than advertised, and their second-hand value is difficult to assess. Additionally, the manufacturing process of lithium-ion batteries for EVs generates more carbon emissions compared to conventional cars.
The UK's approach to promoting electric cars and limiting alternative technologies may be seen as a mistake in the future. The focus on one flawed technology and the disregard for other internal combustion engine technologies could put Europe and the UK at a competitive disadvantage. The market, if left to its own devices, may have led to more efficient and sustainable solutions. The lack of technical and administrative skills in the government could also hinder effective regulation and decision-making.
Overall, the truth about electric cars includes the fire risk they pose, the need for infrastructure development, the rising cost of insurance, and the potential limitations of lithium-ion batteries. Alternative technologies, such as advanced solid-state batteries and ammonia-fuel engines, are being developed to address some of these challenges. The future of electric cars and their impact on traffic congestion and environmental sustainability remains uncertain.
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