News | Oct 12, 2023 | Christyn Binder
Best Practices and Key Considerations for Fire Detection and Suppression in Electric Vehicle Charging Areas
As the popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) continues to rise, the need for safe and reliable fire detection and suppression systems in EV charging areas becomes paramount. Implementing effective fire protection measures is crucial to ensure the safety of drivers and personnel, the protection of property, and the prevention of fire-related accidents.
In this blog, Hiep Le, PE, Project Engineer and Jaewook Kwon, Fire Life Safety Discipline Lead, explore best practices and key considerations for implementing fire detection and suppression systems in electric vehicle charging areas.
Understanding Fire Risks in EV Charging Spaces
Before implementing fire protection measures, it is important to understand the unique fire risks associated with EV charging spaces. EV batteries contain large amounts of energy and can be prone to thermal runaway, which can lead to fire. Factors such as overcharging, faulty charging equipment, and inadequate ventilation can exacerbate fire hazards. Additionally, the presence of flammable gases, such as hydrogen, further increases the fire risk. Having a clear understanding of these risks is essential for designing and implementing effective fire detection and suppression systems.
Once these risks have been ascertained, Hiep and Jaewook recommend assessing the site’s available power and water utilities. Hiep recommends working with an electrical engineer experienced with the design & installation of EV chargers to determine existing electrical service characteristics, including voltage and amperage from the serving utility’s transformer.
Additionally, metering data for this service would need to be acquired and reviewed to determine the existing load utilized by the facility. Jaewook noted that water is proven to be the most effective fire protection measure currently available in the event of an EV fire, which tend to burn longer than other car fires, so ensuring you have an adequate, continuous water supply is crucial.
Compliance with Codes and Standards
Adhering to relevant local regulations, codes, and standards is essential for ensuring the proper design and installation of fire detection and suppression systems in EV charging areas. These codes may include requirements for equipment selection, system design, maintenance procedures, and emergency response plans.
For up-to-date information on the codes, regulations, and standards applicable for your particular facility, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) notes that “The NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®)… is the go-to code when looking to protect people and property from electrical hazards and so, as appropriate, it has requirements for installing EV charging stations, or “Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment,” as they call it in the code.”
The latest developments in the codes and standards with respect to motor vehicle can be summarized as follows:
- NFPA 88A Standard for Parking Structures 2023 requires electric vehicle charging stations and equipment to be UL listed (UL 2202, Standard for Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging System Equipment and UL 2594 Standard for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment).
- The committee of NFPA 30A Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages has been working on provisions for the installation of EV chargers at motor fuel dispensing facilities.
- NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems 2022 suggests Ordinary Hazard 2 for parking garage, which increases the required water density.
- NFPA 88A 2023 requires an automatic sprinkler system in all parking garages regardless of whether it is enclosed or open.
- International Building Code 2021 requires an automatic sprinkler system where the fire area of the open parking garage exceeds 48,000 ft2.
- National Electrical Code Article 625 Electric Vehicle Charging System
Hiep and Jaewook also noted that some transportation authorities, facilities, and even EV manufacturers have specific demands or recommendations for designated EV parking after the vehicle has caught on fire. Due to potential re-ignition, EV’s should be stored at least 50 feet from buildings and other vehicles.
Compliance with these regulations helps to guarantee that the implemented systems meet the necessary safety standards and provides a framework for effective fire protection measures.
Integrating Systems for Fire Protection
Water based fire protection systems are proven to be effective and reliable for EV related fire. The water-based fire protection system will limit the spread of fire and minimize property damage and potential disruptions. Fire protection in electric vehicle (EV) charging station areas can be enhanced with other elements or components. These include:
- Knox Remote Power Boxes: Because fire can initiate from the EV chargers themselves, most agencies demand that engineers implementing EV charging stations must install the Knox Remote Power Boxes adjacent to the EV charging stations, which allow emergency responders to immediately power down EV chargers in the event of an emergency.
- Fire Detection Systems: Fire detection systems will be able to detect/alarm/notify fire early. Earlier intervention of fire department will help control the EV involved fire and further reducing the likelihood of fire spread/property damage.
- Security Camera Systems: In open/enclosed lots, security cameras around EV charging stations can be used to identify/confirm fire incident.
Regular Maintenance and Inspection
Regular maintenance and inspection of electrical and fire protection systems are critical to ensure their proper functioning. This includes checking electrical connections, testing detection devices, verifying the integrity of suppression systems, and confirming the effectiveness of ventilation systems. Implementing a scheduled maintenance program, performing routine inspections, and addressing any identified issues promptly help ensure that the systems are reliable and ready to respond in case of a fire emergency.
Training and Education
Training and educating personnel responsible for monitoring or managing EV charging areas is a fundamental aspect of fire safety. Personnel should receive proper training on fire prevention, emergency response procedures, and the correct usage of fire protection equipment. This includes familiarizing staff with the location of fire extinguishers, emergency power shut-off procedures, and evacuation plans. Regular drills and exercises should be conducted to test the effectiveness of emergency procedures and enhance the preparedness of personnel.
Implementing effective fire protection systems is vital for ensuring the safety of EV charging spaces. Understanding the unique fire risks associated with electric vehicles, complying with relevant codes and standards, employing suitable fire protection systems, and integrating systems enhancing fire safety are crucial considerations. Additionally, regular maintenance and staff training play integral roles in fire safety. By following these best practices and key considerations, EV charging spaces can be safeguarded against fire hazards, providing a safe environment for charging operations and contributing to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.