Inslee signs Washington bill directing study of EV fires



(The Center Square) – Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a bill directing the Washington State Patrol to study the environmental and health impacts of electric vehicle fires, both of which are relatively unknown but could become significant as more EVs appear on the roads.

Concerns over EV fires has increased in recent years, in part due to a recent recall of the Chevy Bolt by General Motors. Whereas gas vehicle fires are typically confined and can be put out with water, EV fires can spread beyond the vehicle and can require 12 times the amount of water in a typical fire engine to put it out. In many cases, first responders are directed to simply let the EV fire burn itself out.

Reason Foundation Senior Managing Director of Transportation Baruch Feigenbaum told The Center Square that as more EVs are on the road, the risks for fires spreading go up, but there currently aren’t enough vehicles on the road to allow for that type of scenario.

“The answer is we just don’t know,” he said. “We have some speculation, some instances where they have caught on fire where, if they had been in proximity to other vehicles they would have turned into a wholesale fire. We just have more questions than answers.”

Additionally, EV fires on roads in wildfire-risk areas could also present a new threat during wildfire season.

Feigenbaum said that while EV manufacturers could theoretically develop a safer battery, the cost could remain an inhibitor.

“That’s the challenge right now,” he said. “The question is what would be the cost benefits? If it costs another $40,000, it’s not going to be realistic.”

Senate Bill 5812 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, task WSP to study not only the adverse environmental and health impacts of EV fires, but also develop best practices for firefighters regarding response to incidents and cleanup after the fire is put out. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers and was signed by Inslee on Tuesday. The bill takes effect on June 6.

For the study, WSP will collaborate with the state Department of Ecology, local fire protection districts, and relevant vehicle towing and recovery entities.

The report will need to be completed and sent to “appropriate” committees in the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2025.

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