Vermont State Police released this photo of the 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV that caught fire in the driveway of State Representative Timothy Briglin, a Democrat, on July 1, 2021.
Vermont State Police
An electric Chevrolet vehicle owned by a Vermont state legislature who sponsored the industry recently caught fire in the politician’s driveway while charging, according to Vermont State Police.
The vehicle, a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV, is part of a fire hazard recall of nearly 69,000 electric vehicles worldwide announced in November by General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
State Representative Timothy Briglin, a Democrat, told authorities the EV had been waiting for the recall for the past few weeks, Vermont State Police Det. Sgt. Matthew Hill said Wednesday. This could mean that the repair was not performed correctly; it is not a solution to the fires; or there is some other problem with the vehicle.
GM said in a statement sent to CNBC on Wednesday that the company’s officials “are in contact with authorities to understand the specific circumstances.” They also reached out to the customer and are actively investigating the incident. A spokesman for the Detroit automaker declined to comment on the fire until the company has access to the vehicle and its investigation is completed.
Hill said he has not yet been contacted by GM regarding the incident that occurred while the vehicle was plugged in for charging.
The fire is the most recent, highlighting ongoing concern from automakers and vehicle security watchers as companies launch an influx of new electric vehicles into the market in the years to come. Automakers have consistently emphasized the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, however, the lithium-ion batteries that power the vehicles can be dangerous and cause significant chemical fires if something goes wrong.
The Biden government was a proponent of electric vehicles, including the Chevrolet Bolt EV. The vehicle was unveiled last week in a video announcing President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, expansion of U.S. charging stations and the move to electric vehicle fleet of the government.
Similar to previous fires
Vermont State Police said the cause of the fire “appears to be an unspecified electrical failure” that had broken out in the passenger compartment near the back seat. The origin of the fire coincides with a handful of previous fires reported to federal agencies and the company in Bolt EVs.
Briglin – who chairs the state’s energy and technology committee and has endorsed electric vehicles, including co-funding a bill to incentivize electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials from the NHTSA and the local fire department also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The fire was reported at Briglin’s home in Thetford, Vermont at around 9 a.m. Thursday, according to a Vermont State Police press release and public records. No injuries were reported.
GM recalled the vehicles in November over electrical fires allegedly caused by a rare manufacturing defect in certain battery modules in model year 2017-2019 vehicles.
The repair requires the installation of advanced onboard diagnostic software in the vehicles, which, among other things, is able to identify potential problems related to changes in battery module performance before problems can arise.
Customers must take their vehicles to a Chevrolet dealer to receive the repair.
Electric vehicles produced by Tesla were among the most frequently reported fires, including a high-performance Tesla Model S Plaid 2021 sedan last week. However, electric vehicle fires are a potential problem for all businesses as the industry has a fleet of new electric vehicles on its way in the years to come Market brings.
“Safety must come first,” Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, told CNBC. “There remain unanswered questions as to why there seems to be a growing trend for lithium-ion batteries to catch fire in vehicles.”
This Tesla Model S plaid caught fire while the driver was behind the wheel, according to a local fire chief and lawyers representing the driver on June 29, 2021 in Haverford, Pennsylvania
Provided by Geragos & Geragos
The lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles are extremely complex and can lead to prolonged chemical fires in the event of problems or after a high-speed accident. Traditional internal combustion engine vehicles can catch fire as well, but it’s currently unclear whether electric vehicles pose a greater threat, according to Levine.
“There is still no good data on this,” he said. In terms of accidents, Levine questioned whether more fires are being reported just because more electric vehicles are on US roads or whether electric vehicles are at higher risk of fire than vehicles with internal combustion engines.
Following reports of electric vehicle fires, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report last year on the risks to rescue workers from battery fires in electric vehicles. The NHTSA also released a report earlier this year on a Battery Safety Initiative, which aims to collect and analyze data on electric vehicle safety and conduct specific investigations into electric vehicle accidents and non-crash events related to battery safety .
Levine said he was “encouraged” by the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, but more needs to be done on protocols and regulations for the safety of electric vehicles in the US. He specifically named new standards in Europe for safety assessments of electric vehicles that the US has yet to adopt.
“This is the time to get it right,” he said. “Since both public and private infrastructure are really investing in the future of electric vehicles and their potential, we as the automotive universe can work together to ensure that these things are safe or as safe as possible.”