Electric car fire drill

The exercise provided insights for the discussion of the new fire prevention rules.

According to the Slovak Association for Electromobility (SEVA), the issue of fire prevention in connection with the development of electromobility and the entry of battery electric vehicles into enclosed areas of mass garages is crucial for legal certainty in the entire electromobility ecosystem. Customers will not buy EVs if they have doubts about whether they will be able to park them safely in existing car parks or whether they will be able to charge them there. The FIRETEST 2024 exercise, organised by 3MON (a SEVA member) together with the Fire and Rescue Corps at the Lešt’ Training and Training Centre on Thursday 25 April, brought a lot of valuable information to the discussion on updating existing legal standards in the field of fire prevention.

The event, which simulated an electric vehicle fire in a confined space of a garage, showcased effective methods of fire management in real conditions. The exercise demonstrated that although an electric vehicle fire can be a challenge, it can be dealt with effectively with the appropriate technical equipment and by choosing the right strategies. However, it also revealed the need to equip firefighters with new equipment. “Equipping our fire departments with new technology is a priority for us because we know that every second in a response is important. The public procurement, for example, for high-pressure fire extinguishing equipment is about to be launched and today’s action is also proof of how important it is to continue investing in technology and training firefighters to work with it,” said Interior Minister Matúš Šutaj Eštok, assuring that the plan is, among other things, to purchase three robotic systems designed to extinguish and manipulate a burning electric car, worth a total of approximately 600 thousand euros.

The exercise showcased significant advances in technologies designed for firefighting operations, especially in the management of specific risks associated with electric vehicles. “By using the latest detection, handling and extinguishing systems, we can much better protect not only property, but above all human health and lives, including safe conditions for the firefighters themselves,” said Simona Kalinovská, managing director of 3MON, which helped organise the event. “Today’s exercise is a clear demonstration that cooperation between the public and private sectors can deliver results that will have a direct impact on safety. I am grateful to all parties involved for their commitment and determination to sensibly set the rules in the field of electric vehicle fire safety based on research and development in the academic field,” said First State Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior Lucia Kurilovska after the exercise.

SEVA Director Patrik Križanský recalled on this occasion the importance of quality and safety of electric vehicles, batteries and charging stations: “Investments in preventive measures are just as important as investments in fire-fighting systems. Battery manufacturers are the first to act. Based on international tests, we can also state with a clear conscience that if, even in the rare event of a battery fire, modern electric vehicles can effectively suppress it at the battery cell and pack level as soon as it occurs.” The batteries themselves are so “fire-rated” that their ignition is truly exceptional. This is evidenced by a specific example from Slovakia, where recently in Miloslavov an entire car burned to the ground due to an arsonist, but the battery still did not catch fire. Further confirmation was provided by the exercise in Leszto itself, where the deliberate ignition of a battery in an electric vehicle provided by Stellantis Slovakia took longer to extinguish using gas burners than the subsequent extinguishing.

Efficient control and rapid response

The response methods demonstrated in practice – such as rapid fire detection or effective water mist extinguishing – are examples of safety features that the new legislation could include among the security standards in garages where electric vehicles are not only routinely parked but also charged. These technologies allow for a faster and safer response by responding firefighters, which is key to minimising damage and injuries. Elements such as electric fire alarms, automated extinguishing systems or robotic vehicle handling have proven their effectiveness in extremely challenging conditions. “The systems we have tested today are not just concepts or prototypes. They are already field-proven solutions that we can immediately implement in real-life conditions. Thanks to our cooperation with foreign partners, we are bringing innovations that realistically increase safety and efficiency in interventions,” says Simona Kalinovská.

ThePresident of the Fire and Rescue Corps, Adrián Mifkovič, stressed the need for international cooperation in setting standards for prevention, passive fire protection and the actual procedures of firefighters during interventions: “The fire safety challenges posed by electric vehicles are not unique to Slovakia. We are working with our partners in the neighbouring V4 countries to exchange experiences and share similar insights as we have gathered in today’s exercise.”

Legislative changes for the future of fire safety

As we move towards more effective solutions to EV fire safety, it is essential to focus on amending legislation to create conditions for the safe entry, stay and charging of electric vehicles in collective garages. GreenWay CEO (SEVA member) Peter Badik stressed that the current legislation does not reflect modern technologies and solutions: “First and foremost, we are interested in how those responsible are thinking about the rules for the actual entry of electric cars into garages. In any case, the solution cannot be a ban on entry, which applies, for example, to CNG drives.” However, such an approach was firmly rejected by HaZZ President Adrian Mifkovic immediately after the exercise, when he declared at a briefing, ” Those facilities that are already in operation, we cannot ban parking there. We have to take such measures so that they can park there. It is unthinkable that we park electric cars outside and conventional vehicles inside. We have to set that up, but from our point of view, the key is electric fire alarms, fume extraction devices and robotics.”

However, the boss of Central and Eastern Europe’s largest charging service provider is concerned about what will happen to the rules in existing buildings: “We have to remind ourselves that however the new rules are set up, there will have to be a transition period during which the necessary technical and structural modifications to existing garages can be made without restricting the entry of EVs. The construction of charging infrastructure is a separate chapter, although it is related to the parking of electric cars in collective garages. Today, the situation is such that, unless we apply for permission to build a charging station, nobody cares about parking electric cars in enclosed spaces. We need to standardise this and require everyone to comply with the rules.”

Sharing experiences and findings with the professional public

The Slovak Electric Mobility Association and its members such as 3MON and others who are part of the SEVA Fire Protection Working Group are ready to work with official government bodies, institutions and experts to review and create clear, applicable and safe standards for entering, staying and charging electric vehicles in garages. “Our objectives are clear – to ensure that electric vehicles can safely enter garages while contributing to reducing the risk of fires. That is why we need legislation that reflects current and future needs and technological possibilities,” stressed SEVA Director Patrik Križanský.

In cooperation with fire safety experts, SEVA plans to develop a series of recommendations for the formulation of new technical standards, which should also include measurements and knowledge gained during the exercise in Leszno. This document will then serve as the basis for the forthcoming wording of decrees and other legislation that will allow for safer and more efficient use of collective garages for all types of vehicles. “We want to make garages safe for all types of vehicles and at the same time we want to ensure that the legislation provides support for innovation and technological advances in the zero-emission transport sector,” concludes the association’s director.

How the FIRETEST 2024 exercise went

FIRETEST 2024 showcased a revolutionary approach to extinguishing electric vehicle fires in bulk garages, where the effectiveness of new procedures and technologies were tested on an electric vehicle from Stellantis Slovakia. The exercise began with the installation of an advanced electric fire alarm system from 3MON and SecuriLas, which included temperature sensor and smoke detection devices.

This automated system was designed to quickly identify the presence of smoke and enable a rapid response to a fire. After successful detection and triggering an alarm condition, firefighters allowed the fire to develop for 20 minutes, corresponding to Stage 3, when the burning intensity reached its peak.

This was followed by manual activation of the water mist system, which was equipped with nozzles from 3MON and VID FIREKILL. This system successfully withstood temperatures of up to 670 degrees Celsius and effectively cooled the area, the burning vehicle and the surrounding structures, a prerequisite for the safe evacuation of the vehicle from the improvised garage. At the same time, the ZODT system (Heat and Combustion Exhaust Device) from Colt International was activated, which significantly helped in ventilating the smoke-filled area.

One of the key highlights of the exercise was the use of an electric platform from First-Mover, which enabled the robotic transport of a partially extinguished vehicle from the difficult to reach environment of the garage. This platform, with a lifting capacity of up to 3500 kg and a 4-5 hour battery, was invaluable for safe and efficient vehicle handling.

COBRA waterjet cutting equipment and a special foaming agent were then used in the outdoor area to extinguish the Li-Ion battery cells, with the application of the extinguishing compound directly into the cell housings being important.

The overall safety of the intervention was ensured by strictly adhered to protocols for personal protection, including TechnoGroup‘s response suits, boots, gloves, helmets and self-contained breathing apparatus.

The final step was environmental monitoring using an optical and thermal camera along with a Colossus robot from Shark Robotics, which provided a comprehensive view of the condition of the area after extinguishment.

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