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Safety First: Understanding Electric Vehicle Fire Hazards in Our Communities

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08 Sep 2023


Jonathan Carroll
Director & Engineering Manager


Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC). AFAC Publication No. 3096 - Incidents Involving Electric Vehicles. Building Confidence: Improving the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia. National Construction Code (NCC) 2019. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations. Light Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA).

The Rise of Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are on the rise, and they're here to stay. With their quiet engines, reduced emissions, and potential cost savings on fuel, it's no wonder many people are making the switch from traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to EVs. But like any technology, EVs have their unique characteristics, and one of those is how they handle fires.

Understanding Electric Vehicle Fires

A recent publication from the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) sheds light on the topic of EV fires and safety in the built environment. It's important to note that while EVs have a lower fire incidence rate compared to traditional gas and hybrid cars, they pose different challenges when it comes to extinguishing fires.

The Hazards of EV Fires

Here are some key takeaways:

Battery Technology: EVs use lithium-ion batteries, which can be sensitive to mechanical abuse, prolonged exposure to heat, rapid discharge, or internal cell failure. These factors can lead to a thermal runaway event, potentially causing fires.

Firefighting Challenges: EV fires are more challenging to extinguish than traditional vehicle fires. EV batteries contain oxygen, making methods that limit oxygen supply less effective. The most efficient way to extinguish an EV fire is to submerge the battery in water, but this can be challenging to achieve.

Safety Measures: The AFAC emphasizes the importance of early engagement with fire authorities when planning and designing EV charging infrastructure. This helps ensure that safety measures are in place to protect the community and emergency responders.

What Can You Do?

If your development is housing EVs or you are considering purchasing an EV, here are some steps you can take to enhance safety:

Know the Risks: Understand the potential hazards associated with EVs, especially in the event of a fire.

Engage with Authorities: Collaborate with local fire authorities and experts to ensure safety measures are in place, especially when installing EV charging infrastructure.

Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with the latest safety guidelines and recommendations, such as those provided by AFAC and relevant regulatory agencies.

Electric vehicles are undoubtedly a positive step toward a more sustainable future. However, it's crucial to be aware of their unique safety considerations, particularly when it comes to fire hazards. By staying informed and working together with experts, we can ensure that EVs remain a safe and eco-friendly choice for our communities. Safety always comes first, and with the right knowledge and precautions, we can enjoy the benefits of electric vehicles with peace of mind.

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