Assistant Editor, Informa

July 26, 2023


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Government releases fire safety guidance for electric vehicles in car parks

The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) has released ‘interim’ fire safety guidance for electric vehicles in covered car parks.

The guidance is intended for car park operators, designers, risk assessors and owners of covered car parks who are involved in the design or retrofit for the provision of electric vehicles (EVs) and electric vehicle charging points (EVCPs).

CarPark-Pixabay-23Created in collaboration with fire safety organisations, car parking groups and the charge point industry, the guide aims to address what is described as ‘exacerbated fire safety challenges’ in covered car parks.

Divided into five main sections, it covers the following topics:

  • Background information on EV fire hazards
  • Common fire safety features of covered car parks and reported fire safety issues
  • Steps to determine relevant mitigation measures
  • Hazard mitigation measures
  • Discussion of mitigation measures

Focus on electric cars and vans

The Building (Amendment) Regulations 2021 which came into force in June 2022, require all new residential and non-residential and those undergoing major renovation with parking, to have an EV charge point installed.

However, the OZEV highlights that covered car parks have been exempted from the full requirements of this legislation.

The government has called the guide ‘interim’ due to ongoing research and data collection: “The measures are based on and limited to the available data surrounding EV fires, which will continue to develop as EVs age, and the industry continues to grow.”

Specific definitions are also provided including a focus on thermal runaway – the process by which a lithium-ion battery can ignite and lead to fire.

We answered your important questions on Lithium-Ion battery fires here – Have a read >>

The guide focuses specifically on EVs such as cars and vans, and does not include research or advice on other electric transport such as hybrid electric vehicles, electric bikes or scooters.

In June, the London Fire Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee met to address e-bike and e-scooter fire concerns and the need for regulatory framework.

The meeting had key representatives discuss increasing risks around e-bike fires and lithium-ion batteries, action taken to address the rising number of these fires in London, and if residents living in high-rises had adequate fire safety guidance due to their potential high-risk.

Mitigating risks

The guidance also covers the varied challenges in firefighting electric fires such as:

  • Suppressing fires involving lithium-ion batteries which requires ‘different firefighting techniques and equipment’, taking a longer amount of time and may not be feasible until all flammable material has burned
  • The toxicity of the battery material and smoke produced which contaminates firefighting water run-off

The rise of EVs is also discussed, with the guide highlighting that one in seven cars sold in the UK in 2021 have a plug, and that 540,079 EVs were on the road in 2022; but that overall ‘the data currently available suggests that EVs do not present an increased likelihood of fire compared to ICEV equivalents.’

It emphasises that car park owners should carry out a fire risk assessment to see whether introducing EVs or EVCPs will create either new or additional hazards and whether action will be required to mitigate these risks.

Some recommendations in the guide for covered car parks are sprinklers, thermal monitoring cameras and manual isolation switches on the EVCPs to cut its power supply if a fire began.

The guidance is not a legal compliance and therefore does not replace existing regulations such as the Building Regulations 2010 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.

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