Norway’s Havila Krystruten is one of two shipping companies that sails between the coastal cities of Bergen and Kierkenes and in January said that it will no longer carry electric or electrified vehicles on its ships. Havila Krystruten cited fire safety as the main reason for its decision. The company says that its ships are not equipped to fight a lithium-ion battery fire at sea.
“This is a pure safety assessment, and the conclusion of the risk analysis shows that a possible fire in fossil vehicles will be able to be handled by the systems and the crew we have on board,” said Bent Martini, the company’s managing director, as translated by Google. “A possible fire in electric, hybrid or hydrogen cars will require external rescue efforts and could put people on board and the ships at risk.”
“We will never compromise the safety of passengers and crew. When we get such a clear conclusion on the risk assessment, the decision is very simple,” CEO Arild Myrvoll said.
The problem is particularly noteworthy in Norway, which is one of the world’s largest consumers of electric vehicles. More than 80 per cent of all vehicles sold in the country in 2022 were fully electric, making this decision a likely nuisance for passengers.
Read more: Norwegian Shipping Company Bans Electrified Vehicles Over Fire Fears, Carscoops, 19 January 2023 or the original story in Norwegian HERE.
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In 2020, Ford and BMW recalled electric vehicles (“EV”) affecting more than 46,000 cars, including almost 5,000 in the UK.
Ford recalled more than 20,000 Kuga plug-in hybrids in August after it found, in some instances, faulty batteries had overheated when charging, causing a fire. Owners, including around 1,800 in the UK, were advised not to charge their cars and to operate them in ‘EV Auto’ mode only.
Following Ford’s recall, BMW revealed it identified almost 3,000 plug-in hybrid models in the UK that could be at risk of a battery fire. BMW issued a recall and suspended delivery of affected new models as a preventative measure. A total of 26,700 vehicles are said to be involved worldwide, of which around 2,930 are either with UK customers or awaiting delivery. In a statement, the German carmaker said particles may have entered the battery during the production process, which could lead to a short circuit within the battery cells when it is fully charged. This may lead to a fire.
London Fire Brigade data for 2019 obtained via a Freedom of Information request, suggested an incident rate of 0.04% for petrol and diesel car fires, while the rate for plug-in vehicles is more than double at 0.1%.
Read more: Vehicle fire data suggests higher incident rate for EVs, Fleet News, 27 November 2020
In September 2021, General Motors advised owners of the Chevy Bolt EV or Bolt EUV to park 50 feet away from other vehicles when they are in a parking garage due to fire risks. The automaker had already suggested owners park their vehicles outdoors and not leave them charging unattended due to fire risks, but issued this new guidance in response to owners who had questions regarding the safety of using parking garages/parking decks. Owners were also advised to limit charging their vehicles to under 90 per cent capacity using the Target Charge Level mode, avoid frequent charging sessions and avoid depleting their battery below 70 miles of range.
Read more: GM Asking Chevy Bolt EV Owners To Park 50 Feet Away From Other Vehicles, GM Authority, 16 September 2021
A lithium-ion battery may catch fire and/or explode if it’s exposed to extreme heat or is punctured or damaged in some way. Some of these types of fires have already occurred. Firefighters need special training and equipment to deal with electric vehicle fires.
Emergency responders are used to dealing with fires involving cars, trucks, and other highway vehicles, but those caused by lithium-ion batteries are different and pose new risks and variables.
First, during an electric vehicle fire, over 100 organic chemicals are generated, including toxic gases like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, both of which are fatal to humans. For this reason, emergency responders must have the appropriate PPE equipment to protect themselves.
Second, electric fires don’t respond the same to typical fire-extinguishing methods. The burning battery pack is usually inaccessible to externally applied suppressants and can re-ignite without sufficient cooling.
Third, heat from an electric fire can far surpass that from a gasoline fuel fire, exceeding 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius). Applying water or foam can cause a violent flare-up, and there are also risks of electric shock.
In the USA, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, 31 per cent of 32 US fire departments surveyed didn’t have any kind of specific training for their personnel to help them deal with hybrid or electric vehicle fires, and fully half said they had no post-crash protocols in place.
Read more: First Responders Unprepared for Electric Vehicle Fires: Report, Pittsburgh Injury Law News, 23 November 2020
It’s not only fire risks and the special training required to deal with those fires that are a problem, electric cars may also come with health risks.
Concerns have been raised regarding constant exposure to electromagnetic fields and electromagnetic frequency (“EMF”) radiation. Today’s electric cars operate on 40-120 kW. Although this statistic seems to imply less power, it only means one thing. Each vehicle is now increasing electrical use, and that could increase our exposure. This has raised concern among the general public about the possibility of cancer risk as a direct result.
Lack of distance between the passengers and the source of the EMF radiation may increase risk over time. Battery packs must be placed in an area where risk is minimised in the event of a fatal crash. This means that they are located right underneath each of the passenger seats, which is the source of direct exposure to EMF radiation. When amperes circulate, they do so within mere centimetres from passengers and drivers. This risk of exposure increases during acceleration as the driver applies more pressure to boost speed.
Extensive studies are being conducted regarding EMF radiation exposure and its relationship to our bodies. The current research explores the role of electromagnetic radiation which is reputed to increase the risk of cancer in passengers.
Current studies are underway to measure the level of electromagnetic radiation and its connection to cancer risk. As it stands, the data are yielding more alarming results: electromagnetic radiation is occurring at even the lowest speeds during active driving. This means that the electric current needed to accelerate a vehicle at any speed can be fatal to the health of each passenger with prolonged exposure. In fact, there are new concerns about its possible connection to leukaemia in small children.
Hybrid and electric vehicles require the discretion of both drivers and passengers. Researching what you’re planning to buy and asking questions is your best defence while further testing is being done. One of the best and perhaps only ways to avert risk exposure is to invest in a vehicle that only uses fuel.
Read more: EMF Radiation in Electric Cars and Hybrid Vehicles, EMF Inspections Ltd, 28 June 2021
- Power Lines, Electrical Devices, and Extremely Low Frequency Radiation, American Cancer Society
- Passenger Exposure to Magnetic Fields in Electric Vehicles, Open Access Peer-Reviewed Chapter, 31 May 2016
- Electromagnetic Exposure in Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (EV): How Safe Are You? Jose Joaquin Machado, 8 January 2021
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