Milne and Favale are also quick to clarify that consumer grade, residential BESS systems, such as the Tesla Powerwall, do not present the same level of fire and explosion dangers as large-scale systems.
“They’re producing a much lower power density, and the manufacturers have done extensive testing to reduce the hazards, which I’ve reviewed,” Favale said.
However, fires from electric vehicle batteries are a concern both for occupants of the vehicle and concrete parking structures.
“Heat from an electric vehicle fire is more intense than that from a gasoline fire, and it could superheat the structure of a parking garage to the point where concrete spalling occurs,” Milne said. “We have seen parking garage structures condemned following a vehicle fire event; this hazard is magnified with electric vehicles.”
For this reason, it is important to consider future electric vehicle use when designing today’s parking garages. “This could include conducting a more robust evaluation of the true fuel loads if EVs catch fire,” Milne said. “A design response could include increasing the floor-to-floor height of the parking garage.”
Recognizing the fire risks batteries can pose to the public and firefighters is critical. If the coming electric battery revolution is to be truly successful and game changing, it must also be accompanied by responsible fire protection engineering and the awareness, codes and procedures to ensure these guidelines are in place at every facility using these power sources.
The observance of Fire Prevention Week in the U.S. and Canada began on Oct. 3 and continues through Fire Prevention Day on Oct. 9. It has been observed annually in the U.S. since 1925, drawing attention to lifesaving educational initiatives to decrease casualties caused by fires.
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