Car Fires From...Water Bottles?

By Automotive Staff | April 26, 2007
Your parents may have warned you as a kid not to play with the magnifying glass in the sun, lest you set things afire. Perhaps you were the sort of kid who burned little scraps of paper or Popsicle sticks, anyway, when Mom wasn't looking. Now there comes word of another common household object that can set things alight when exposed to direct sunlight: the common water bottle that many people carry with them in the car to take to work, or the gym, for instance. So far, there have been about a dozen such incidents where water bottles nestled inside of a car's cup holders have focused the sun's rays at just the right angle and intensity that a nearby car seat has gotten singed, burned, or otherwise damaged. Mark Gillings, a car owner who had a plastic water bottle burn a hole in his car's front seat while on a fishing trip, told the popular New Zealand consumer-affairs show Fair Go, "The potential here for fire or for someone to be injured is great I think. . . . Too right, something should be done about it."
He blames a water bottle placed in the cup holder of the rear seat for burning two small holes in the leather upholstery of his back seat while parked outside in the afternoon sun. The sun's rays entered from the windshield, passed through the bottle and were concentrated (much as a magnifying glass would do), and within 20 or 30 seconds, were burning a hole through the adjacent seat. Gillings told the program, "Now, had there been newspapers, or some bit of blankets, or some sort of thing on the back seat, things could have been much worse." New Zealand's Motor Industry Association has been aware of this issue for over a year, but argues that it would cost a lot of money to outfit every new car's cupholders with a warning message alerting owners not to leave plastic beverage bottles in direct sunlight when parking their car. Via TV NZ