Parking areas should be wider due to the risk of electric car fires and fears of explosions of flammable vapor clouds, jets of fire and leaks of toxic water, ministers have been told
- Experts say parking spaces should be widened to prevent electric vehicle fires from spreading
- The report found that existing parking lots are not equipped to handle battery fires
- Extinguishing fires in electric vehicles takes much longer and requires larger amounts of water
Parking spaces should be made wider to prevent electric vehicle (EV) fires from spreading to other cars and buildings, according to new guidelines proposed to ministers.
The distance between parked cars should be increased to 90cm to 1.2m in indoor and multi-storey car parks to allow firefighters to reach burning vehicles more quickly and reduce the spread of fire, said a July report from consultancy Arup.
The report, submitted to the Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, proposed a series of changes to outdated safety features in England’s car parks that do not take into account the risk of modern cars – including electric vehicles.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 bays, providing water-based fire suppression in parking garages, building fireproof structures between parking spaces and installing thermal monitoring cameras in the parking garage.
Parking spaces should be made wider to reduce the risk of electric car fires spreading, experts recommend in a new report (pictured is the Luton Airport fire last week).
The distance between parked cars should be increased to 90cm to 1.2m in indoor and multi-storey car parks to allow firefighters to reach burning vehicles more quickly and reduce the spread of fire, a new government-commissioned report says
The cameras would be able to detect early temperature rises in electric vehicle motors or if the battery goes thermally out of control.
The report also recommends that parking spaces be equipped with smoke and heat exhaust systems as well as access and fire-fighting facilities.
Initial data shows that while electric vehicles are less likely to catch fire than gasoline or diesel vehicles, electric vehicle fires take longer to extinguish and require larger amounts of water.
Firefighters need up to 10,000 liters of water to extinguish a fire in an electric vehicle, compared to 6,000 liters needed to extinguish a standard gasoline engine.
Extinguishing an electric vehicle fire can take between six and 49 minutes, while petrol or diesel vehicles could be extinguished in just five minutes.
Electric vehicle fires also run the risk of reigniting several hours or even days after the initial fire or explosion, known as thermal runaway.
According to the report, up to 13 percent of electric vehicles re-ignite after the first fire.
Triggers can include overcharging, which causes some devices to spontaneously ignite when charging at home, and – important for electric cars – collisions.
The reaction essentially creates more heat, driving up the battery temperature and potentially triggering further reactions that could prolong fires for longer periods of time.
This can happen within milliseconds and can reportedly reach temperatures of up to 752 degrees Fahrenheit or 400 degrees Celsius.
Experts also remained concerned about the risks posed by water used to put out fires in electric vehicles that was contaminated by toxic chemicals from the lithium-ion batteries.
In areas where the toxic runoff could have a “significant ecological impact,” the water should be contained before it enters the drains, the report said.
Flammable vapor clouds also pose a threat 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 cars, electric vehicle fires take longer to extinguish and require larger amounts of water (pictured, electric vehicle bursts into flames in Pennsylvania in July 2021).
The white, opaque clouds, which can easily be confused with steam, contain highly flammable and toxic components that are released during thermal runaway.
These clouds can cause flash fires, explosions and jets of flame.
The NFCC has an entire section of tailored guidelines for firefighters to help them deal with electric vehicle fires.
The first action is to determine whether the burning car is an “alternative fuel vehicle” (AFV) and what type it is – either a fully electric car, a self-charging hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or a model with a hydrogen fuel cell.
After decommissioning, firefighters are tasked with isolating the high-voltage systems by either disconnecting the 12-volt battery, removing the vehicle’s main fuse, or removing the emergency stop plug.