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A government-commissioned report recommends wider parking spaces to help prevent fires from spreading and giant baths for burning vehicles

By Tom Gibson | October 17, 2023

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The report has made a series of recommendations and has become of interest since the Luton Airport fire that‘s written off 1,500 vehicles

A government-commissioned report recommends wider parking spaces to help prevent fires from spreading and giant baths for burning vehicles

Car park spaces should be made wider and huge baths should be built to dunk burning electric vehicles in under proposed government guidelines to prevent battery fires from spreading out of control.

Electric vehicles have, once again, taken a battering in recent months with PM Rishi Sunak first postponing the introduction on the 2030 ban while social media users were quick to blame the Luton Airport fire on an electric vehicle, although reports now suggest it was started by a diesel.

The report does say that battery-powered cars “[do] not present an increased likelihood of fire” when compared to combustion engine vehicles while also stating that “as electric vehicles age and become more widely used [the] risk of fire may increase.”

Despite that, this news is bad for manufacturers who have huge numbers of electric cars to sell and aggressive government targets to hit.

Current car park spaces are built on 1960s-era fire safety laws that look to be out of date, although the report says there is still a “high degree of uncertainty” about fire risks involving electric cars and it’s “not yet understood” whether batteries become more of a fire hazard with age.

Among the other solutions put forward by the report are greater distances between indoor car parks to manage the risk of fire spreading between cars and buildings.

And on the bays themselves it says there should be a whopping 90cm to 1.2 metre gap between vehicles to both help prevent fires from spreading while making it easier for fire fighters to tackle blazes. Quite if these proposals are realistic remains to be seen.

The report was first published in July but has seemingly gone under the radar until last week’s fire in Luton brought fire and car safety back towards the top of the agenda.

On top of the above recommendations, the report also warned around 13% of electric vehicle fires reignite while they’re harder to extinguish. Petrol and diesel vehicle fires typically take five minutes to put out while electric vehicle fires can take up to 49 minutes to extinguish.

Regarding the recommendation to dunk electric cars into huge baths, it referred to examples in China where fires had been put out by being submerged in mobile baths that flood their batteries.

A government spokesman said: “There is no evidence that electric vehicle fires are more likely to occur than petrol or diesel vehicle fires and it remains safe to have them in covered car parks.

“This guidance is part of our commitment to keep fire prevention, fire detection and fire-fighting under review for all vehicles and provides the industry with best practice on how to keep car parks safe.”

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