I’ve suggested in these pages that the several documented fires involving Chevrolet Volts suggest some kind of pattern, as no other major-manufacturer EVs have been involved in any reported fires. But, as Ronnie Schreiber at Cars In Depth points out, even that pattern seems to pale in comparison to the National Fire Protection Association’s tally of highway vehicle fires in the US each year. Though the number of highway vehicle fires has decreased significantly since 1980, 2009 still saw 190,500 fires. And between 2003 and 2007,
On average, 31 highway vehicle fires were reported per hour. These fires killed one person a day.
Of course, if we’re talking about 200k fires (roughly) in 2008, a year in which there were 256 million registered vehicles (roughly) on the road, we’re still talking about less than one tenth of one percent of all vehicles on the road bursting into flame (.078%). On the other hand, with just over 10,000 Volts built and some 5,000 delivered, three fires could be either relatively insignificant (.03%) or comparable to the rest of the cars on the road (.06%), depending on whether you base it on production or deliveries. And because vehicles must be delivered before they can be used in normal circumstances, it seems that thus far the Volt is delivering a slightly lower percentage of fire incidents than the general vehicle population… which is estimated to be over 9 years old on average (whereas Volts are all a year old or less). So, while the evidence suggests that EVs as a class are just as fire-safe as any other car, the Volt still seems to be something of a statistical question mark.