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Home>Fire>Suppression>Corporation addresses risk of electric car fires in City of London

Corporation addresses risk of electric car fires in City of London

14 March 2022

WITH AN overarching sustainability agenda, the City of London Corporation is understandably keen to see an expansion in the use of electric vehicles. To support this objective, the organisation has begun fitting fast and rapid electric vehicle charging points within eight car parks located around the Square Mile. While welcoming this new technology, the Corporation has recognised the associated fire risks and, that being so, developed some of the first guidance in the UK designed to control them.

One key risk identified is the potential for fire spread between vehicles if faults occur and there’s a battery fire. It has been recognised that, in this situation, a flame jet is very likely to be projected from the side of the vehicle towards any neighbouring parked cars or vans. Although the risk and fuel loading are comparable with conventional vehicles, the decision taken by manufacturers to allow side venting of battery gases has the potential to create side flame discharge from batteries under vehicles.  

In a bid to control this risk without the need for dividing walls, sprinkler engineers at JH Fire have worked alongside the City of London to devise a sprinkler system with the specific aim of reducing the spread of flame between vehicles. It’s the first system specifically for battery-powered vehicles to stop fire passing from one vehicle to another, thereby reducing the risk of potential problems associated with rapid charging zones.

The additional features of the multi-water jet suppression system now installed in the Corporation’s enclosed car parks mitigates the risk of any chain reaction developing from one parked vehicle to another.

Back in February, a test of the prototype system showed the system’s effectiveness and provided reassurances for future installations.

Code of Practice

The City of London Corporation’s Fire Safety Unit has been focusing on Best Practice when it comes to electric vehicles and fast charging units and duly developed a UK-wide Code of Practice for electric vehicle fast charging within premises. This was initially used for reference in the absence of any official documents/standards at the time of the installation for the Corporation’s first electric vehicle car park located at Baynard House in the City of London.

The Code of Practice covers the following areas:

Legislation and fire standards

Design of sprinklers: Are they suitably rated? Ventilation requirements. Can they be adequately designed? Structural integrity, the environment, sustainability, possible cyber crime and reaction of persons to a fire event

Local Authority fire attendance

Initial First Aid firefighting. Firefighting: Vehicles’ electrical isolation, removal of vehicles, the control of sprinklers

The City of London Corporation’s own guidance notes on installing fast, rapid and super charging points in enclosed structures has been developed in conjunction with the Greater London Authority, the London Fire Brigade, the City of London Police, the Office of Product Safety and Standards, Transport for London, Royal Sun Alliance, JH Fire and in-house experts.

*Copies are available by sending an e-mail to firesafety@cityoflondon.gov.uk