EV Charging and Fire Safety

The future of the EV charging industry


Fire Engineering

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The construction industry is stuck in purgatory at the moment when it comes to EV (Electric Vehicle) chargers within buildings – whilst there is a great groundswell of momentum to provide EV charging within new and existing buildings, the current codes and standards are effectively silent on how to provide EV chargers in a way to manage the potential fire safety risks.

Whilst EVs do not contain any more combustible elements or fuel than an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle, the failure mechanism of lithium-ion batteries, known as thermal runaway, can result in horizontal jet flames, which are difficult for a traditional sprinkler system to control, and may require significantly more time and water to extinguish.



EVs and the BCA 

The recently adopted BCA 2022 introduces and states that “A building must have features that facilitate the future installation of on-site renewable energy generation and storage and electric vehicle charging equipment.”

However, the fire safety sections of the BCA have no clear corresponding requirements or prompts to make the necessary fire safety allowances for EV charging within buildings. Certifiers and Building Surveyors are left with the BCA clauses E1D17 and E2D21 that require additional fire safety measures and smoke hazard management be provided to account for ‘special hazards’.

When EV charging becomes more widely used it will no longer be considered as a ‘special hazard’, but until then, there is no standard process for addressing EV charging in a building application. The big problem is that these BCA clauses are very broad and ambiguous and do not actually instruct a design team what to do. The fire engineer therefore is the central consultant that can advise numerous other design consultants on how to best resolve and manage EV hazards on a project-by-project basis.

Our approach to EV charging 

At Holmes, we take a bespoke solution approach to fire safety design for EV charging. There are a number of ways to address and mitigate the risks associated with EV charging, but not all of them are suitable for every building. We are also able to provide advice about Personal Electric Vehicles (PEVs) such as electric bikes, scooters, and skateboards. The demand for charging facilities for PEVs within end of trip facilities is growing and making provision for such charging in the end of trip areas is far better (from a fire safety perspective) that occupants charging their PEVs in public corridors or under their work desk.

Our team of engineers are trained to identify hazards, reduce risks, and find a compromise solution in terms of achieving fire safety. We can assist with making key decisions to help you with future planning for EV charging, such as:

  • Where is the best location for charging bays and the EV chargers themselves (from a fire safety perspective)?
  • What sort of active fire systems (e.g. sprinklers) should the design make allowance for?
  • Will having EV chargers impact other design aspects for the carpark like structural FRL or travel distances?
  • Does having EV charges mean the carpark needs a smoke exhaust system?
  • What extra provisions need to be included in the design for the benefit of the fire brigade?