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Armand Saufi - April 2023
Upset about the guidelines proposed by the KPKT to ban EV chargers in strata unit parking and basements?
The proposed guidelines for public charging in Malaysia are raising eyebrows.
Click here to see Paul Tan’s article sharing the announcement
As they only allow for ground-level EV charger parking in public areas, with only open-air rooftop levels being permitted for non-ground level charging. This may raise questions about what will happen to existing chargers like Gentari's Suria KLCC chargers, and how condo dwellers will be affected by the guidelines that prohibit the installation of EV chargers in individual parking lots.
Here's why it's dangerous:
Electric car fires can be extremely hazardous, producing toxic gases like hydrogen fluoride that can be harmful to firefighters even with the use of breathing apparatus because the gases seep through skin. In underground parking areas, there is limited ventilation and nowhere to disperse smoke and heat. This makes it even more difficult for firefighters to put out the fire or even exit the scene due to safety concerns.
Incidents in the past
There have been instances of electric car fires in the past, such as the Tesla Model S fire that occurred in Norway in 2019, which took firefighters several hours to put out. In 2018, a Tesla Model S caught fire in a parking lot in Hong Kong, which prompted a recall of the charging adapters.
How do lithium-ion battery fires occur?
Lithium-ion battery fires are typically caused by overcharging, short-circuits, physical damage, and thermal runaway. Overcharging occurs when the battery is charged above its recommended voltage, resulting in heat and gas buildup. Short-circuits happen when the battery's internal components touch each other, generating heat. Physical damage, such as impact or puncture, can also cause short-circuits. Thermal runaway occurs when the heat generated within a battery exceeds the amount of heat dissipated to its surroundings, resulting in a self-sustaining chain reaction that can cause violent cell venting, extremely high temperatures, smoke, and fire.
So what's the difference between a Regular car fire vs EV fire?
Electric vehicle fires present a unique challenge. During an EV fire, the heat from the reaction causes the battery to expand and release flammable electrolytes and gases, making it difficult to extinguish. Electric car fires burn for longer periods than regular car fires and emit toxic gases such as hydrogen fluoride, posing a health risk to people and animals. When electric car fires burn, they burn for very long periods of time (days and even weeks). The risk of reignition is so high that in countries such as Sweden they are imposing a 2-3 week quarantine on damaged electric vehicles. In addition, toxic gases such as hydrogen fluoride are emitted during a thermal runaway event which in the words of some of the Swedish firefighters equate to ‘3 breaths to the Hospital, 5 breaths to the morgue’.
Putting out lithium-ion battery fires:
To stop a thermal runaway in an electric vehicle, water or other solutions must be applied inside the battery pack. However, the battery pack is sealed, making it impossible for firefighters to gain access. While an opening may be created during a thermal runaway, it is still difficult to get water inside. Fire departments have used between 10,000 to 15,000 litres of water to extinguish electric vehicle fires, significantly more than the amount used for a traditional car fire.
“Normally a car fire you can put out with 500 to 1,000 gallons (2k - 4k litres) of water, but Tesla’s may take up to 30,000-40,000 (115k - 330k litres) gallons of water, maybe even more, to extinguish the battery pack once it starts burning” - AFD Division Chief Thayer Smith
Not only is that 30-40 times more water required to put out an EV fire compared to a regular car fire, but the water used would be considered contaminated and must be disposed of in a proper manner.
Did KPKT make the right move?
It is understandable that some people may be upset about the guidelines proposed by KPKT to ban chargers in certain parking areas. However, considering the safety concerns surrounding EV fires during charging, the move is necessary to minimise the risk of fire and ensure the safety of everyone involved, including firefighters who risk their lives to save others.
Lithium-ion battery fires are difficult to put out, and the risk of reignition is high. In addition, electric car fires burn for longer periods and emit toxic gases such as hydrogen fluoride, posing a health risk to people and animals. In the event that an EV fire were to occur in a high-rise building, it may damage the integrity of the whole building, and there is a potential that the building may collapse. Therefore, the safety of everyone involved must be a top priority, and the proposed guidelines can help mitigate the risk of EV fires in public areas.
While the instances of EV fires during charging may be low, the potential consequences are significant. Therefore, the guidelines proposed by KPKT to restrict EV charging in certain parking areas are a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
When you see an EV car on fire!
Imagine you're a passer-by and you see an EV on fire. As a good samaritan here are a few things you can do to help your fellow human!
1. Park your car away from the flaming car
The last thing you need is to have your car getting caught in a chain explosion. Park your car at a safe distance. And then rush to their aid.
2. Use an emergency warning triangle
Use the Emergency warning triangle or the double indicator to let the vehicles behind you know that there's an accident ahead.
3. Contact the fire department and traffic police (999)
As a third party you should immediately contact the fire department and the traffic police about an accident *Don't forget to notify them that it is an EV fire*. This is because the people in the burning car might leave their phones and wallets inside in a hurry. Aim to provide assistance. The traffic police will help in alerting the oncoming traffic about the incident.
Also, don't slow down just to see a car on fire, either stop and help or just drive away. Slowing down to see what's happening will only contribute to the traffic and may endanger the lives of many.