Wickford, Essex - A brand new electric car was destroyed in a fire on Sunday after being left charging overnight. Fire crews blamed an electrical fault for the blaze, which reduced the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive car to a blackened shell.
The car had been left outside an office block in Wickford, Essex, and despite the ferocious fire its cable was still connected to the melted wall charger. Fire crews had to ventilate the office block, which had become smoke logged.
Almost 50,000 electric or hybrid cars were sold in Britain in 2016, and one in every 30 cars sold is now powered by electricity. Fires have so far proved rare, although some experts argue that this could be due to the relatively small numbers on the road compared to petrol and diesel vehicles.
Many are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which are also one of the most popular types of rechargeable batteries and used in many cellphones. But they can sometimes explode and catch fire when overheated - as was the case for Samsung’s notorious Galaxy Note 7 phone, which was banned by airlines and which the company was eventually forced to recall at a cost of billions.
Lithium-ion batteries contain two electrodes - one made from lithium and one from carbon - submerged in a liquid called an electrolyte that lets electrical charges flow between the electrodes. If a battery is charged too quickly, it can cause metal-like whiskers called dendrites to form and pass through the liquid electrolytes, resulting in a short circuit that can lead to explosions and fires.
On Sunday night a spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said the car was well alight when crews arrived.
"An electric car which was left on charge outside an office building has been 100 percent destroyed," he said, "and caused smoke damage to a building after catching alight. The cause of the fire has been recorded as accidental, and was due to an electrical fault."