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White Paper addresses ‘Fire Safety in Parking Garages with Electric Vehicles’

07 August 2023

SIEMENS HAS published a White Paper highlighting the challenges and, importantly, potential solutions in protecting garages containing electric vehicles from the threat of fire.

The White Paper has been co-written with Danfoss Fire Safety A/S, a pioneer in high-pressure water mist firefighting, and features contributions from the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology, the internationally renowned knowledge centre in the field of fire safety and security.

Given that electric vehicles in parking garages are still a relative newcomer in fire safety terms, most countries are still grappling with the relevant norms and standards. As such, the response to these applications is still in the development stages.

One factor which is very much at the forefront of the responses thus far is ‘thermal runaway’ – the rapid increase in temperature caused by the release of stored chemical energy in the event of an electric vehicle battery fire. This results in an explosive combustion of the battery electrolyte vapour, complete with intense heat and highly toxic smoke, which can lead to multi-vehicle fires.

In fact, there have been numerous fires in electric bus and car parking garages, so too fires involving electric scooters and electric vehicles on the open roads. Two examples of multi-vehicle fires in parking garages occurred at Stavanger Airport in 2020, where more than 200 vehicles were destroyed and the building partly collapsed, and a similar event in Liverpool in which 1,400 vehicles – as well as the building involved – were lost.

Test evidence

The White Paper draws on a test which simulated a garage space constructed from steel shipping containers in which electric vehicles were centrally positioned. Point detectors and a high-pressure water mist deluge system with open water mist nozzles were employed to respond to the fire.

The test resulted in intense fires and verified that, under these test conditions, detection with point detection “...is fast and reliable.” Also, the high pressure water mist “...performs well, allowing sufficient time for the Fire and Rescue Service to arrive, preventing multi-vehicle fires and avoiding the high temperatures that might lead to structural damage.”

Tests were also conducted on a typical electric vehicle charging station using ASAtechnology detectors and aspirating smoke detectors. The results demonstrated that “...both the aspirating smoke detectors and the ASAtechnology point detectors detected the fire very early, within one-to-three minutes of the activation of the simulated incipient fire.”

Intensified focus

As the White Paper duly highlights, the focus on this particular issue will only intensify as the number of electric vehicles in circulation increases.

“Today’s garages mainly accommodate vehicles with internal combustion engines, together with a smaller number of electric vehicles. As the proportion of electric vehicles increases, the approach to fire safety in existing garages will be revisited.”

*Copies of the White Paper entitled ‘Fire Safety in Parking Garages with Electric Vehicles’ can be downloaded at https://siemens.com/firesafety-electric-vehicles

**Further information on Siemens‘ fire products is available online at www.siemens.co.uk/cerberus