White paper addresses ‘Fire safety in parking garages with electric vehicles’

A new white paper has been published by Siemens highlighting the challenges and, importantly, potential solutions, in protecting garages containing electric vehicles from the threat of fire.

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

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 (EV) battery fire. This results in an explosive combustion of the battery electrolyte vapour, with intense heat and highly toxic smoke which can easily lead to multi-vehicle fires. This has been illustrated by numerous fires in electric bus and car parking garages, electric scooters and electric vehicles on the open roads. Two examples of multi-vehicle fires in parking garages are Stavanger Airport in 2020 where more than 200 vehicles were destroyed and the building partly collapsed, along with a similar event in Liverpool in which 1,400 vehicles, as well as the building, were lost.

The paper draws on a test which simulated a garage space constructed from steel shipping containers in which EVs were centrally positioned. Siemens 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 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 EV charging station using Siemens ASAtechnology detectors and aspirating smoke detectors (ASD). The results demonstrated that “…both the ASD and the ASA point detectors detected the fire very early, within 1-3 minutes of the activation of the simulated incipient fire.”

As the paper highlights, the focus on the issue will only intensify as the number of electric vehicles in circulation increases – “Today’s garages mainly accommodate vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE), together with a smaller number of EVs. As the proportion of EVs increases, the approach to fire safety in existing garages will be revisited.”

A full copy of the white paper can be downloaded from: https://siemens.com/firesafety-electric-vehicles

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