If you haven't seen the latest flare-up, this story will help catch you up. Basically, the car maker BYD suffered heavy criticism and a stock price hit after a crash involving an electric taxi that caught on fire after being struck at high speed. Initial reports say the BYD e6 was hit by a sports car traveling an estimated 112 miles an hour. Three people were killed.
The BYD fire is the latest in a short string of extremely well-publicized fires involving electric vehicles.
The Chevy Volt was attacked in 2011 over post-crash battery fires. Rushbots dubbed the Volt an "exploding Obamamobile." However, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation cleared the Volt: "The NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles."
Meanwhile in May of this year, a $100,000 Fisker Karma was destroyed in a garage fire in Texas. Some officials immediately blamed the fire on the Karma, but the car-maker countered that the battery pack was intact. Whether some other part of the car caused the fire remains unclear. Investigations drag on.
It comes as no surprise that every piece of bad news about electric cars gets a lot of attention. Plenty of interested and powerful parties have a lot to lose once electric cars secure their foothold in the market. But I do find it amusing that people seem so fearful of fires from electric cars when millions of us drive around in rolling gasoline bombs every day.
This report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states: "Vehicle fires cause some 3,000 injuries and claim some 500 lives per year in the USA." And that's just in the United States. And yet when people die in vehicle fires, like this poor pick-up truck driver or these five people in Oregon, where's the industry-focused outrage? Why aren't the commentators calling pick-up trucks "death traps"?
If the public seriously thinks that electric vehicles should be able to withstand 100-mph impacts without catching fire, then every gasoline-powered car should be taken off the roads now because no vehicle ever built can meet that standard.
Bottom line: I'm still planning to buy an electric car when the time is right for me. Despite up front costs and overblown concerns about "range anxiety," EVs are cheaper in the long run, better for the environment, help reduce dependence on foreign oil, and just plain drive better.