Data reveals extent of electric vehicle fires around the UK

*For the latest statistics for electric vehicle fires in the UK, please view the latest report*

The last five years has seen a dramatic increase in fires caused by electric vehicle batteries in the UK, with a sharp rise in incidents taking place last year, unique data gained by CE Safety has revealed.

The growth in popularity of electric vehicles has led to cars, scooters, bikes, and motorbikes setting alight, with a total of 735 call-outs across 29 fire and rescue services across Britain since 2017.

We at CE Safety conducted a Freedom of Information investigation to gather insights into the increasing issue of lithium battery fires, with all 50 fire and rescue services contacted and requested the relevant data. The fact that we were not able to obtain statistics from 11 services, including Scotland, demonstrates how recording this information is still in its infancy, suggesting that these results only tell half the story about this trend. Of the results we collated, there was not a single region that did not have a fire caused by an electric vehicle battery since 2017.

In the workplace, it’s a legal requirement for anyone in industrial work that involves the application of heat, to undertake hot works passport training to obtain a hot works permit. This vital training can ensure workers understand the risks and help prevent fires in the workplace. This is especially critical for anyone who works in the motor industry.

Sharp increase in electric vehicle fires since last year

What we do know is that while between 2017 and 2020 the number of recorded fires remained relatively low, there was a dramatic upsurge in 2021. This is demonstrated in London Fire Brigade’s figures, which jumped from 32 fires in 2020 to 102 in 2021. In the first half of this year alone, there have been 98 incidents recorded.

In Merseyside, there were two fires in 2017, five in 2018, six in 2019, one in 2020, then up to 16 in 2021, and so far there have been 13 for the first half of 2022.

Firemen putting out an Electric vehicle fire, incidents of which have increased over the last 5 years

Which parts of the UK has the most electric vehicle fires?

London had the starkest numbers, reflecting the larger volume of electric vehicle ownership, with a huge 507 fires on record in the past five years, which is 69% of the total for the rest of the UK.

Regions next on the list are Merseyside with 43 fires and Greater Manchester with 32. No records were sent for Scotland, but in North Wales, there have been four fires, and in Northern Ireland just two.

Table showing areas of the UK with the most Electric Vehicle Fires

Which electric vehicles catch fire the most?

Broadly speaking, the number of scooters that catch fire is much higher than other vehicles across Britain, however, London’s figures change this ratio dramatically to electric cars being the primary culprit of fires, followed by bikes, vans, buses, and motorbikes.

There are a few surprising vehicles that come up in the data again and again, such as mobility scooters, golf buggies, forklift trucks, and hoverboards or Segways. In London, 19 buses have had to be extinguished in the capital but there were very few in other regions.




Pie chart showing the number of Electric Vehicle Fires by vehicle

What damage do electric vehicle fires cause?

Fire safety organisations are becoming increasingly alarmed at how dangerous these blazes can be. Flames can take hold rapidly and are difficult to extinguish without proper fire marshal training and understanding of how such fires work.

When we asked the fire and rescue services about the extent of the damage caused by such incidents, most did not hold the specific data. However, of those who did, they revealed that most vehicles were almost always completely destroyed by fire.

In London, serious damage occurred to 93 vehicles, and 78 injuries were recorded. In Merseyside, seven injuries were recorded within the overall findings, and in Northern Ireland one fire caused by a scooter spread across two floors of a home, causing its four occupants to be taken by ambulance to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

Image showing a dangerous electric vehicle fire

What could the solution be?

CE Safety believes there are three important factors that should make up the framework for reducing the risk of lithium battery fires:

  • Manufacturers need to improve the design and testing of the batteries and associated components, together with establishing international design standards.
  • Fire and other emergency services need an effective response plan and ongoing appropriate training.
  • Users need to be better educated about the risks of lithium batteries and what to do (and not do) when a fire occurs.

Electric vehicle fires in the United States

The video below reveals the scale of the problem that the USA is also facing with these kinds of fires. The CNBC report outlines the issue of how difficult and dangerous it can be to extinguish such blazes, the lack of education surrounding them for fire departments, and the speed at which the vehicles are adapting in the industry, resulting in health and safety strategies struggling to keep up.

Video from CNBC reporting on an electric vehicle fire in the USA

Safety advice issued by fire and rescue services 

The growing concern by fire services has prompted many to issue warnings and advice on the subject, with one recently going out from Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service. They highlight the extent of damage caused by an electric scooter’s battery pack that caught fire in a flat in Portsmouth. They show the damage in the photos shown here

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service has put together advice about lithium-ion battery vehicles in an attempt to bring awareness and reduce the risk of fire. This guidance includes how to charge them properly, how to store them, what to think about when you’re buying them, and how to check for damage and dispose of batteries safely. 

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service got in touch with us to say: “We have identified the issue of electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries as emerging risks and have set up a working group. Although we have only had a handful of incidents, mainly involving scooters and bikes (5 incidents from April 2020 until Nov 2021), we are exploring every avenue to allow us to deal with these situations. 

“Safety advice is incorporated in our Safe & Well visits about charging these items at home. Our Protection Team is looking at engineered building designs and the Response Team is trialling new equipment and procedures. We have issued a very comprehensive training package to all our operational crews. The information and guidance we receive is regularly updated and then cascaded to the relevant departments.”

A statement by Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service on the subject says: “For the fire brigade, the real problem when it comes to an EV fire is with trying to put it out. The services have two main options, let the fire burn out or extinguish it.

“The obvious choice seems to be to extinguish the fire, however many EV manufacturers actually advise for a controlled burn. This is where the fire services allow the vehicle to burn out while they focus on protecting the surrounding area. Once the fire has been successfully put out, the problem for the fire brigade is not over. Electric vehicle fires are known to reignite hours, days or even weeks after the initial event, and they can do so many times.

“Not only does this pose a safety issue, but it also poses a legal issue: recovery firms are increasingly concerned about dealing with electric vehicles. Fire services across the country are working hard to improve their knowledge and understanding of these fires to ensure that they are prepared as we inevitably see more EVs on the roads.”

What to do if your electric vehicle is on fire

We asked London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, for some guidance on what to do in such an emergency. He said: “If an electric or hybrid vehicle catches fire or starts to produce plumes of white smoke, our advice is to safely stop the vehicle and get out immediately.

“The white smoke produced by these fires is highly toxic and must never be mistaken for steam. Make sure you – and anyone else – move a safe distance away from the vehicle, do not attempt to retrieve items from inside or tackle the fire yourself, and call the fire brigade.”

Learn more about the risk of electric battery fires

Owner of CE Safety, Gary Ellis, said: “What these statistics show is that with the upsurge in electric vehicles comes the very real and dangerous risk of fires. While it is a positive step that the UK is adopting a less damaging approach to how we power transport, we must remain vigilant while the industry catches up on the safety element of such vehicles.

“What’s good news is the fact that fire and rescue services are highlighting the problem and are taking the situation seriously, so the news is finally getting out to those owners of electric vehicles. We must all listen to their advice and remember all the ways in which we can reduce the risk of fire.”