Who among us doesn’t like to see a good action movie that involves chases and other risk taking? I think many of us can enjoy a bit of this entertainment and if there is something that sometimes surprises us a lot, it is the chaos that is generated, especially when the cars on stage, they begin to blow what popcorn, but… can this really happen in real life? We solve this doubt.
In different films, we have seen several cliches automotive, like seeing someone shoot the gas tank and all of a sudden blow up the car. In other cases, a slight fuel leak is enough, followed by a cigarette butt or a burning newspaper in the fuel inlet, so that after a few seconds the car explodes, flies through the air and throws sparks everywhere.
In the most extreme cases, a head-on collision or rollover is enough to detonate the car as if it were charged with explosives. In the movies it adds a lot drama and a surprise factor that captures our attention every minute, but as they say, it’s a measure to make everything more spectacular, because in real life things don’t work that way.
A quick reminder of the facts
Although we all know that gasoline is a combustible substance, we must clarify that it is not a explosive substance like gunpowder for example. That is, if it comes into contact with fire, it ignites, but it does not explode with devastating force, at least not in the quantities found in a car and without receiving additional help from excessive pressure.
Where it helps produce an explosion is in the enginebut this explosion is controlled and affected by factors such as pressure, oxygen and a spark.
At first the pistons inside the cylinders move down, at which time small amounts of gasoline and air are injected into the cylinder, then the valves close, the piston moves up and compresses this mixture creating a lot of pressure. Finally, the spark plugs create a spark which causes all of the previous mixture to ignite and produce an explosion which again pushes the piston down. repeat the cycle.
Another factor to consider is that a car’s fuel tank contains liquid gasoline, it can create fumes, yes, but not enough to generate such high pressure that it results in a Hollywood-style explosion if it is exposed to fire or bullet. .
In terms of shocks, the newer tanks are designed to withstand heavy shocks and deform in the event of a violent blow, although this does not exempt them from breaking in extreme cases. When this happens, the risk of fire is high, especially if the gasoline touches very hot elements or if the incident itself causes sparks. This creates an instant fire, but not an explosion that blows up the whole car.
The particular case of the Ford Pinto of the 70s
During the 1970s, the Ford Pinto They got the bad reputation of being “explosive” cars and not because they had harsh acceleration, but because their gas tank didn’t have the best design and position of all, so that on many occasions a rear collision could perforate it and cause very rapid fire.
It should be noted that as seen in the video above, gasoline ignites instantly, but does not explode and destroys the car.
And what about electric cars?
Much has been said recently about the electric car and the battery explosionhowever, the incidents directly related to a breakdown do not exceed the tens compared to the millions of cars of this type circulating in the world.
What usually happens is failure due to overheating or perforation of the structure that protects them. Usually what happens first is an explosion of a vapor cloud created by the reaction taking place inside the cells. This explosion can dislodge toxic waste. Generally when the explosion occurs it is not strong enough to destroy the car however it is advisable to move away as quickly as possible so as not to inhale the toxic gases.
Following this, a fire appears which, according to data from emergency organizations in the United States, may last up to 24 hours due to the reaction of the battery components. In addition, they must be extinguished with special chemicals and not with water, because generally the chemical composition of the elements in ignition is not affected by water.
These fires, like those of a cellphone battery, tend to focus only on one area which then spreads, however, electric cars also don’t explode Hollywood-style.
So how easily can they explode?
As we have seen, a car cannot explode as such, use gasoline or batteries as a power source. There can be fires, yes, but an action movie level explosion will never happen unless we’re special effects experts or there’s equipment that reacts that way to edge of the car.