What are the fire risks associated with electric vehicles?
The question of the safety of charging electric vehicles (EVs) in underground car parks proved to be of particular concern. Some commercial property owners asked why their Fire Risk Assessments haven't flagged this as a significant risk, while others have voiced the opinion that the UK should follow the practice of some European countries and ban EVs from charging in sub-basement car parks.
Although it is true that there have been several fires reported, there is not yet enough data to evidence how much of a problem this may become. However, good practice would be to avoid installing underground car park charging points if possible and site them in the open instead - but not close to any escape routes, or areas which could impede safe evacuation. It is recommended that EV charging points at workplaces should not be sited near assembly points or flammable storage tanks, etc.
This in turn brings up the bigger question of the safety of installing high voltage charge points in close proximity to buildings and other infrastructure. This is becoming an increasing concern for property insurers, and it is important that organisations give careful consideration as to where charging points are located. According to insurance broker and risk advisors, Marsh, failure to do so could result in requests from insurers for charge points to be relocated, incurring significant expense and ultimately insurers could even limit or refuse cover where clients decline to relocate charge points.
It is clear that proper standards are needed around the siting of charge points in general but in the meantime, Marsh have provided the following guidelines:
- Notify your insurers that you intend to install charging points and undertake a fire risk assessment.
- Locate charging points externally where possible instead of under canopies or inside other enclosed areas of the building. For multi-storey car parks, charging points should be installed only on the open air/roof/top deck, whenever possible.
- No charging should be undertaken within 10 metres of any combustible materials or within 15 metres of hazardous installations
- Ensure the nominated charging area provides suitable space for vehicles to park and connect safely.
- Ensure there is sufficient electrical infrastructure for the electrical supply at the point of installation. The circuit should be dedicated to the use of the chargers, and not be part of a ring main or used for other purposes.
- Provide employees or tenants with adequate training covering the safe use of such chargers.
The storage of electric bikes at places of work and residential buildings is also worth mentioning here. According to RISC, whenever possible, electrically assisted bicycles should be stored and charged outside the premises, ideally in a secure detached single storey structure.
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The information contained within this blog is provided solely for general informational and educational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions based upon this information, we advise the reader to consult any and all relevant statutory or regulatory guidance and where felt necessary to consult a qualified fire or industry regulation professional. The use or reliance on any information contained herein is solely at the reader's risk.