Emergency services got the fire under control, but not before it spread from the engine bay to burn out the rest of the car. Picture: Miles Freeman

Solihull, West Midlands - A couple were forced to wake their children and flee from their home after the family’s new electric car burst into flames while charging in the driveway.

Miles Freeman and his fiance Tanya Krupenko were making tea in their kitchen when they heard the alarm on their Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid SUV.

Freeman went outside to see the £56 000 (R955 000) car in flames just metres from their front door. While Krupenko called emengency services, Freeman woke Olivia, aged five, Harrison, aged four, and seven-month-old Savannah before the family ran past the blazing vehicle to safety in the street.

Freeman, who owns a battery recycling company, also had time to rescue the family’s pet rabbit and cat before the flames became too intense.

He said: "My first reaction was to get the car away from the house but the flames were well above the bonnet. Tanya called 999 and I began getting the children out of bed.

"I thought about heading out into the back garden but I knew that if the fire reached the house we could be trapped and the heat would be too intense."

Demo model

Emergency services arrived at the home within five minutes and got the fire under control, but not before it spread from the engine bay and charge port to burn out the rest of the car. The fire also caused £3000 (R50 000) of damage to the front of the family home.

The couple bought the demo model XC90 in October, and Freeman used a Volvo-approved company to install the charging point at his home. Volvo, which in 2017 announced that all of its new cars will be partially or completely battery-powered from 2019, is planning to send an engineer to investigate how the blaze started.

Electric vehicle fires have been rare since the Nissan Leaf became the first mass-market ‘EV’ when it rolled off production lines in 2010, but a Smart ForTwo electric drive car was destroyed after a fire broke out while it was charging in Wickford, Essex, in July 2017.

Freeman used a Volvo-approved company to install the charging point at his home.

Investigation

Freeman said: "The fire brigade believe it may have been started by the engine or the socket where the charging plug fits to the car, which is very close to the engine.

"I have contacted Volvo’s office in the UK and Sweden and they told me that they would be sending an engineer to investigate but have had to chase them several times for a response.

"After what we have been through we should be at the top of the list. The outcome of this could have been disastrous and we were very lucky that the smoke didn’t get into the house to cause any damage."

Now the family have been left without a car and the remains of the burnt-out vehicle are sitting in their driveway as they wait for the investigation.

A spokesman for Volvo UK said: ‘We are in regular contact with Mr. Freeman regarding this incident and an inspection of the vehicle will be taking place shortly. We have arranged a loan car for him in the meantime.’