Electric vehicles continue to be rolled out across the country, with the federal government announcing a new policy to regulate fuel-efficiency standards on April 19. The batteries have been lauded as environmentally-friendly alternatives to petrol powered cars. But the lithium-ion batteries present risks such as catching alight. Hundreds of fires have already ignited in cars, bikes and scooters. More than 450 fires have been linked to the batteries in less than two years. The damage has been catastrophic, including destruction of a Gold Coast home after an electric scooter ignited in the garage earlier in 2023. A Californian doctor died in 2019 after his crashed Tesla caught fire. The man was allegedly unable to open the car's electronic door. One expert told ACM that while lithium-ion batteries were a positive move for the environment, it was now a game of numbers. More electric vehicles on the road could mean more fires. IN OTHER NEWS: University of Wollongong engineering faculty's Dr Jon Knott said lithium-ion batteries, which are used in most rechargeable products including mobile phones, were well-understood. He said increased fires were proportionate to the number of vehicles on the road and not a result of less reliable batteries than previously. In simple terms, the batteries contain many different materials that ignite at different temperatures. One material with a low heat tolerance can burst into flames and become hot enough to ignite other parts of the battery. The batteries contain sophisticated engineering that is generally good at preventing fires, but the high speed and heat of car crashes created increased risk. "A vehicle crash can be the starting point of a lithium battery fire, just like a petrol-powered car can catch on fire too," Dr Knott said. "You can't just engineer away those sorts of things," he said. But for electric vehicles, a fire can be much harder to put out. Lithium-ion batteries also provide their own oxygen, so a flame from one can not be starved of oxygen in the way other fires can. The fires need a special cooling agent to extinguish them, which means car owners must wait for fire fighters to arrive on scene. The batteries presented challenges for flying, too. A staff member from Qantas freight operations said as new technology, it was still unknown exactly how batteries could operate mid-flight. Lithium-ion batteries are rarely allowed on passenger flights and are instead flown as separate cargo. They are packed by dangerous goods distribution companies and must be packaged and labelled according to International Air Transport Association regulations. "It's not as simple as just sending a [petrol powered] car," the staff member said. The batteries can put boats - their most common form of transport - at risk, too. Norwegian shipping line Havila Kystruten banned all hybrid and electric vehicles from freight in early 2023 until a safer method was finalised. "A possible fire in electric, hybrid, or hydrogen cars will require external rescue efforts and could put people on board and the ships at risk," Havila Kystruten CEO Bent Martini said to Maritime Executive. Advocacy groups, including United Firefighters Union Australia and state fire services, are calling for increased government measures. "This is a major emerging policy challenge, which, for the safety of the firefighters and the community, we urge Australia's governments to confront with the commitment that our members demonstrate every day," ACT Fire and Rescue superintendent Greg Mason told the ABC. Despite the concerns, Dr Knott said lithium-ion batteries were highly sophisticated and owners did not need to be scared of them.