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‘I’m Sticking to Petrol’, Reigate Health Councillor Says

Published on: 12 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 19 Feb, 2023

Cllr Bramhall (Con) addressing Bramhall Reigate & Banstead Council Image: Reigate and Banstead Council

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

Electric cars are at risk of “igniting and exploding”, Reigate’s environmental health councillor has claimed, adding that she’s “sticking to petrol”.

Conservative councillor Natalie Bramhall (Redhill West and Wray Common) made the remarks when the environmental sustainability of the borough’s vehicle fleet was questioned during a Reigate and Banstead Borough Council meeting on Thursday, February 10.

Cllr Paul Chandler,

The matter was raised by Green Party councillor Paul Chandler (South Park and Woodhatch) who had asked about progress made towards creating a zero-emission fleet.

Cllr Bramhall told members there were now 14 electric or hybrid vehicles, the equivalent of 10 per cent of all council vehicles.

She cautioned though that further purchases would only be to replace stock that had come to the end of its working life, adding that the council would not let operations be compromised by unsuitable vehicles.

She reiterated Reigate and Banstead Council’s commitment to reach carbon targets by 2030.

It comes following a December where electric vehicles made up almost a third of all new cars sold in the UK, overtaking diesel sales for the first time.

Speaking in a meeting, Cllr Bramhall said: “Interestingly today – something came across my desk. Electric vehicle batteries are made up of the equivalent of thousands of mobile phone batteries in one place all linked together. If one of these goes up in flames it can quickly transfer to the next one and so on  – it feeds itself.

“Around 150,000 EVs have already been recalled by manufacturers because of the history of fires being caused by the charging process. Many are still current and recalls continue even among the major manufactures

“As battery density advances so does the potential for a serious incident as a lot more energy is held in the battery. Crucially nearly all incidents happen when the battery is charging, as a result of thermal runaway, which can lead to ignition or even explosion.”

She added: “What  I suggest, councillor, that we do, is I think our team are right to be cautious and wait for vehicles to reach the end of their service life and let other councils try the electric vehicles and let’s just see what they come up with before we start to take that step forwards ourselves.

Cllr Chandler thanked the portfolio holder for her answer and asked: “Do you not recommend our residents to take up electric vehicles?”

Cllr Bramhall said: “It really isn’t to me as a councillor and a county councillor to recommend what our residents drive or do not.

“Personally I’m sticking with petrol at the moment.”

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Responses to ‘I’m Sticking to Petrol’, Reigate Health Councillor Says

  1. Mark Bray-Parry Reply

    February 12, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    Surely Cllr Natalie Bramhall that petrol and diesel is flammable!

    For the record, the most comprehensive survey to date was completed by American insurance company AutoinsuranceEZ which looked at the rate of vehicle fires based on sales. The survey found that the relative risk of EVs [electric vehicles] catching fire was a fraction of the risk from ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles, though interestingly hybrid cars were a higher risk again.

    Perhaps Cllr Bramhall would like to read the statistics and reflect on her position.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      February 12, 2023 at 3:40 pm

      I think the difference between a petrol fire that can be extinguished with dry powder is substantially different between that and an electric car thermal runaway fire, if the batteries are damaged using dry powder will have no effect.- There is no way of putting it out save let it burn. When an EV does go up in flames, it presents a far trickier proposition for the emergency services trying to extinguish the blaze. Some EV fires have been known to happen while the car has been parked overnight, thanks to a process called thermal runaway.

      So sorry Mark comparing Petrol to Battery fires via the insurance companies is like comparing chalk on wheels and cheese on wheels – different types of fires and different ways of dealing with them – and the statistics are not in due to the low number of EVS in use compared with petrol and diesel cars and comparable ages of fire events. five years of EV’s and a hundred for petrol and diesel

      PS: It is not about the rare event ‘fires’ it is more about the coal, oil, wood pellets, wind and solar – currently not available to charge them which really worries me!

  2. Sam Peters Reply

    February 14, 2023 at 8:50 am

    No wonder Surrey is failing on climate and environment when this is the position of its councillor supposedly leading on the matter. Does Cllr Bramhall not know what petrol is?

    If she bothered to look at the evidence, she’d see that Electric vehicle (EV) fires are around 61 times less common than fires in petrol/diesel vehicles (

    EVs aren’t a silver bullet solution to the climate crisis, and certainly not to congestion or our transport issues, but they can go a long way towards reducing air and noise pollution (especially in urban centres), and are far more efficient environmentally than petrol/diesel vehicles.

    That SCC’s lead councillor on the environment did not know this, and not even bother to spend two seconds looking it up, is extremely concerning.

    Sam Peters was a Green Party candidate at the last county council elections

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