Parking spaces should be expanded due to the threat of electric car fires, amid fears of flammable vapor cloud explosions, jets of fire and toxic water runoff, ministers warn.
- Experts say parking spaces should be expanded to prevent spread of electric vehicle fire
- Existing car parks are not equipped to deal with battery fires, report reveals
- Electric vehicle fires take much longer to put out and require larger amounts of water
Parking spaces should be expanded to prevent electric vehicle (EV) fires spreading to other cars and buildings, according to new guidelines proposed to ministers.
The distance between parked cars should be increased by between 90 cm and 1.2 m in indoor and multi-storey car parks to allow firefighters to reach burning vehicles faster and reduce the spread of fire, a July report from the consulting firm Arup says.
The report provided to the Government Office for Zero Emission Vehicles proposed a series of changes to outdated safety features in England’s car parks that do not take into account the risk of modern cars, including electric vehicles.
These include increasing the distance between parking spaces, providing water-based fire suppression within parking lots, building fire-resistant structures between spaces, and installing thermal monitoring cameras in the parking lot.
Parking spaces should be expanded to reduce the risk of electric car fires spreading, experts recommend in a new report (pictured, the Luton Airport fire last week)
The distance between parked cars should be increased by between 90cm and 1.2m in indoor and multi-storey car parks to allow firefighters to reach burning vehicles faster and reduce the spread of fire, recommends a new report commissioned by government.
The cameras could detect an early temperature rise in electric vehicle motors or if the battery is thermally runaway.
The report also recommends that car parks be equipped with smoke and heat extraction ventilation systems, as well as fire-fighting access and facilities.
Early data shows that while electric vehicles are less likely to catch fire than gasoline or diesel vehicles, electric vehicle fires take longer to put out and require larger amounts of water.
Firefighters need up to 10,000 liters of water to extinguish an electric vehicle fire, compared to the 6,000 liters needed to put out a standard fuel engine.
It can take firefighters between six and 49 minutes to put out an electric vehicle fire, while gasoline or diesel vehicles could be extinguished in just five.
Electric vehicle fires also pose the risk of reigniting several hours or even days after the initial fire or explosion in a process called thermal runaway.
The report found that up to 13 percent of electric vehicles restart after the initial fire.
Triggers can include overcharging, which is why some devices self-combust while charging in owners’ homes, and, most importantly in the case of electric cars, collisions.
Basically, the reaction produces more heat, which increases the temperature of the battery and potentially causes more reactions that could prolong fires for longer periods.
This can happen in milliseconds and can reportedly reach temperatures as high as 752 degrees Fahrenheit or 400 degrees Celsius.
Experts also remain concerned about the risks posed by water used to put out electric vehicle fires that is contaminated with toxic chemicals from lithium-ion batteries.
In areas where toxic runoff could cause a “significant ecological impact,” water should be contained before entering the sewer, the report says.
Flammable vapor clouds also pose a risk to first responders responding to electric vehicle fires.
Early data shows that while electric vehicles are less likely to catch fire than gasoline or diesel vehicles, electric vehicle fires take longer to put out and require larger amounts of water (pictured, an electric vehicle bursts into flames in Pennsylvania in July 2021).
White, opaque clouds, which can be easily confused with vapor, contain highly flammable and toxic components that are released during thermal runaway.
These clouds can cause flash fires, explosions and jets of fire.
The NFCC has an entire section of customized guidelines for fire personnel to help them deal with fires involving electrified cars.
The first measure is to identify whether the burning car is an “alternative fuel vehicle” (AFV) and what type it is: whether it is a fully electric car, a self-charging hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or a hydrogen fuel cell model. .
Once immobilized, firefighters are tasked with isolating high-voltage systems by disconnecting the 12-volt battery, removing the vehicle’s main fuse, or removing the emergency shutdown plug.