The uptake of electric vehicles in Australia will soar over the next decade as the country pushes towards a more sustainable future.
An adequate charging network is essential to the success of the EV revolution.
The level of hazard associated with charging so many vehicles around the world, including here in Queensland, is not yet known. We do know, though, that charging lithium-ion batteries isn’t without risks.
What is the fire risk when charging an EV?
It is necessary to consider two aspects of EV charging fire protection: the charging station and the battery storage system inside the EV itself. Typically, fires originate from either of these two areas.
Electric vehicle charging stations ( Lvl1,2,3) all consist of a charger, a cable, and a connector that connects to the vehicle.
With hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, of EV charging stations expected, failures and fires are inevitable and hence the requirements for safety standards with a particular emphasis on protecting against a fire. In response to these risks, fire authorities including QFES have recommended that buildings with electric vehicle charging or parking be considered special hazards under NCC Clause E1.10.
A variety of lithium chemistry technologies power EV charging station’s fuel cells.
It is possible for a lithium chemistry battery to fail due to overcharging, equipment failure, or mechanical impact, causing a thermal runaway event, posing significant risks including;
- Toxic smoke production.
- Rapid rate of fire spread.
- Heat release rate of EV fire.
- Proximity of adjacent fuel loads (other vehicles)
When the parking area is under a public or residential building, it’s even more important to protect a building’s load-bearing structure and compartment elements. New-generation fires caused by electric vehicles require innovative solutions to increase building safety.
As part of this shift, the Australian Building Codes Board is developing ‘EV readiness’ targets within future revisions of the National Construction Code, so that buildings potentially can accommodate up to 80% electric vehicles.
EV charging stations in buildings:
QFES asks building certifiers to consider the following items under NCC Part E1.10 when considering Building Development Applications (BDA):
- Emergency shutdown controls for EV charging stations
- Block plans for building to include location of EV charging stations
- Block plans for building to include location of EV distribution boards and EV emergency shutdown controls
- Vehicle impact protection (e.g.bollards) for EV charging stations.
EV in Car Parks:
A building certifier should consider the suitability of existing Deemed to Satisfy provisions, including EV spaces within car parks, in order to provide appropriate levels of protection for occupants and fire brigade intervention actions.
- Fire detection and early warning intercommunication systems
- Smoke management and air handling systems
- Fire hydrants and sprinklers
- Fire resistance of bounding construction.
Risks associated with battery storage systems:
The vehicle being charged is also part of the equation when it comes to EV charging.
Physical damage, overheating, overcharging, or product defects can cause fires in lithium-ion batteries. This is clearly explained in our recent article entitled LITHIUM (ION) BATTERY FIRE SAFETY STARTS HERE…
A battery storage system failure caught on tape the dramatic consequences of a fire and explosion in lithium-ion batteries and the devastating effects in this short video.
If you’re a building designer or certifier who’s considering implementing all these mitigating measures for EV fire events, please get in touch with our team to find out how we can help you.