The alleged risks of electric vehicles in underground parking garages have received a lot of attention in recent months. A new Swiss study sheds light on the case and states that a burning electric car is no more dangerous than a regular car fire.

In February, various media outlined the alleged risks of electric cars at the charging station in underground parking garages, resulting in parliamentary questions.

The then Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops wrote in the answer that based on data on fires between 2006 and 2015, it can be stated that there are approximately five fires in underground parking garages per year. According to Knops, there were "no known situations in which an electric car or charging station was the cause of a fire".

This does not alter the fact that there are other risks than with traditional fuel cars. That is one of the reasons why the Institute for Physical Safety and the Netherlands Fire Service is working on providing information. After all, extinguishing a battery fire is different from extinguishing a regular car fire. In addition, flammable and toxic gases are released. Swiss researchers have explored this in more detail over the past two years, as have heat development. The results were presented earlier this month.

A burning battery pack cannot be extinguished. (Photo: Amstein + Walthert Progress AG / Empa)

Burning vehicles always bad for health

Researchers from the research institute Empa, together with people from the engineering firm A + W Progress, started from the possible questions that exist among the administrators of underground parking garages, where more and more options are available to charge electric cars.

"What should I do if a car catches fire? What are the risks for the staff? What does such a fire mean for the building? We assumed that in our experiment," says project leader Lars Derek Mellert.

According to Mellert, a burning electric car is no more dangerous than a normal car fire when it comes to heat development. Such a fire is also no more harmful than a fire in an ordinary vehicle. "The substances released by a burning vehicle are in all cases harmful and potentially deadly," says Mellert.

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Electric car battery is set on fire

Need quick solutions for contaminated fire extinguishing water

It is true that toxic gases are released in a fire in an electric car, the researchers found, but these also remained below the critical values ​​during underground tests and simulations.

In addition, the research showed that modern ventilation systems in tunnels and garages can withstand car fires, even if it concerns a burning electric vehicle. The claim that such a fire could damage a parking garage or tunnel was dismissed.

However, guidelines and solutions for heavily polluted extinguishing and cooling water must be developed quickly. Burning electric cars contain too many heavy metals to discharge them into the sewage water.