Disclaimer: Model S, X Owner
What the engineers and scientists at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration have to say:
"Regarding the risk of electrochemical failure, [this] report concludes that the propensity and severity of fires and explosions from the accidental ignition of flammable electrolytic solvents used in Li-ion battery systems are anticipated to be somewhat comparable to or perhaps slightly less than those for gasoline or diesel vehicular fuels. The overall consequences for Li-ion batteries are expected to be less because of the much smaller amounts of flammable solvent released and burning in a catastrophic failure situation."
Like anything else, it's a risk discussion, and there is no simple answer. Tesla's are generally safe, as are gasoline vehicles, and there are risks and considerations that first responders need to train for, just like any vehicle chassis.
"Tesla vehicle fires are exceptionally rare events, and in some cases, there have been zero Tesla vehicle fires in a quarter. That means that an increase from one fire per quarter to two per quarter represents an increase of 100%. In order to avoid misinterpretation of these numbers and provide a meaningful comparison to industry data, Tesla will publish an update to vehicle fire data annually.
From 2012 – 2018, there has been approximately one Tesla vehicle fire for every 170 million miles traveled. By comparison, data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation shows that in the United States there is a vehicle fire for every 19 million miles traveled.
In order to provide an apt comparison to NFPA data, Tesla’s data set includes instances of vehicle fires caused by structure fires, arson, and other things unrelated to the vehicle, which account for about 15% of Tesla vehicle fires over this time period."
To control I would want to see what % of Tesla crashes catch fire compared to ICE crashes.
> This is misleading, the average vehicle on the road is much older than a tesla. You should represent the data showing in rate of fires per model year
EVs have no ignitable fluids, nor hot surfaces to ignite those fluids. Ergo, their risk of spontaneous combustion during operating goes down drastically. I concede they may still catch fire after an accident severe enough to breech the battery; this is not preventable due to the energy storage requirements of a light vehicle, combustion-based or otherwise.
No one is parroting Tesla's marketing (I'm unsure where they even market "our cars don't catch fire" explicitly), and the only way to accurately make a determination will be to wait until the average vehicle age of the EV fleet arrives at parity to the existing internal combustion fleet (as you mention in your own comment ).
But saying "the risk is not yet quantifiable" isn't that exciting of a discussion topic.