UK Ministry of Defence issues Safety Alert over electric car charging points

The UK’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has issued a Safety Alert concerning the Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries used in electric and hybrid cars.

There is evidence that is only now starting to come to the forefront that Li-ion batteries are subject to an increased fire risk if faults occur in the batteries or charging systems that could cause thermal runaway, expulsion of toxic gases and a high risk of fire spread for prolonged timescales.

Larger Li-ion battery fires are not possible to extinguish with water, foam or normal extinguishing media. It is known that fires involving Li-ion batteries are prone to re-ignition hours, days or weeks later without notice.

Li-ion battery fires can release between 1000-6000 litres per Kwh of battery of toxic/flammable gas vapour before ignition occurs. The safety alert emphasises that the danger lies with the batteries, and not with the charging points themselves.

These have been noticed by Fire Services worldwide and have caused loss of life and significant property loss to date.

DIO is advising that parking bays for electric vehicles should be placed, as a minimum, 10 metres from any building, and 25 metres from any building housing sleeping occupants. This advice is backed by the National Fire Chief’s Council and Defence Fire & Rescue HQ.

Concerns are also raised over the use of electric charging points in underground car parks,: DIO highlights the need for suitable- fire detection, 120 minute fire compartmentation, and for suppression and ventilation systems to be installed.

(Fire compartmentation) is achieved through the provision of fire resisting walls and floors (commonly offering between 30 minutes and 120 minutes fire resistance). And will include special measures to address any openings in the compartment lines, such as doors, glazing, service penetrations and ductwork. The wall or floor must remain functional for the duration of the designed fire resistance period. The compartment wall or floor should not crack or develop holes that allow flames, smoke or hot gases to pass through it, and if appropriate, it should maintain a suitable degree of insulation.

Fire Protection Association.

There is clear evidence that Li-ion fires are becoming a greater risk: firefighters in London were called to more than 130 fires involving the batteries in little over a year. This number is largely attributable to the increasing popularity of e-bikes and e-scooters.

75 e-bike fires were recorded in New York City in 2021 alone, resulting in 72 injuries and three deaths.

In Vancouver, the number of battery related fires have increased five fold in the last six years.

On April 29th of this year a line 71 bus caught fire in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. It was a 100% electric vehicle, from the Bolloré brand Bluebus 5SE series: as a result Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens decided to temporarily withdraw from circulation its fleet of 149 Bluebuses.

The MoD report is available here: https://assets.publishing.serv...

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

He is a of member the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK, and the oldest in the world having been founded in October 1884

Gary's most recent book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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