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NZ Unprepared For EV Fire Risks: OIA documents reveal

 In brief
  • A document for NZTA Waka Kotahi and others details dozens of potential EV safety issues. 
  • For example: No way to move burning EVs from critical areas, like tunnels, due to the extreme heat and toxic gases released. 
  • Despite plans to make public transport go electric, no safety plans have been prepared to deal with potential EV fires.

Click for Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Discussion document obtained under OIA details EV safety issues

A damning discussion document on fire safety issues with electric vehicles on our roads, bridges, tunnels, carparks and car ferries. It reveals the new technology poses a serious risk to lives and infrastructure and that Labour/Greens forced EVs on the public without doing a single safety analysis.

The document, by engineering consultancy Rationale NZ, was presented to a briefing attended by top analysts of NZTA Waka Kotahi, Maritime NZ and Fire and Emergency NZ in October 2022. It has just been exclusively released to the Centrist under the OIA, and it pulls no punches.

How to move a burning EV from a critical area? 

Among a list of 61 public safety issues identified, Rationale says there are some major concerns, like no ability to move burning EVs:

“It is currently unknown how to move an “incident” away from key points in the network (e.g. tunnel, bridge motorway) to reduce/prevent economic and social impact. With an incident in tunnels, vehicles need to be removed asap to preserve infrastructure.”

With the Government pushing public transport to go electric, no safety plans have been prepared:

“There is limited to no emergency procedure for heavy vehicles or buses.”

Indeed, some bus companies are allowing e-bikes and scooters on board:

“People want to bring personal mobility vehicles on board public transport. We don’t know if they are damaged or not, mobility vehicles could ignite.”

What’s the plan? She’ll be right

The public assumes that emergency responders are highly trained to combat EV fires, but the Rationale discussion paper says that isn’t the case.

NZ Unprepared For EV Fire Risks: OIA documents reveal - Centrist

“Our people are not trained for dealing with these fires. No fit for purpose first responders training. No standard operating procedures, across the three emergency services, for how to respond to EV fires.”

There’s no way for agencies to coordinate their response to a major EV fire incident:

NZ Unprepared For EV Fire Risks: OIA documents reveal - Centrist
EV fired like these can be incredibly dangerous due to the extremely difficult problems they present when attempting to put them out. Is New Zealand ready for mass adoption of EV vehicles in the face of these difficulties?

“Information sharing is lacking so no one has a full picture across the system. Fire, police, towers [tow-trucks], mechanics, Waka Kotahi (trends, flags, recalls) are all separate.”

On the Cook Strait and other ferries, they are flying blind:

“Haven’t done exercise on how to extract a burning vehicle from a ship. Vessels don’t necessarily know the fuel type of the vehicles that are onboard.”

They also do not know if a drive on vehicle is carrying a load of batteries.

And for ferry operators, office carparks and homeowners, there’s another potentially deadly implication: 

EVs are potential hydrogen bombs

EV fires generate explosive hydrogen gas. In the open air hydrogen quickly floats away, but in enclosed spaces like ships, tunnels, your garage at home or in your office basement carpark, a hydrogen reaction is possible.

“58% of gases from battery are hydrogen, this can make it explode.”


Maritime NZ

NZTA Waka Kotahi

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