New fire safety rules for EV chargers create installation challenges in Queensland


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New fire safety regulations for EV chargers

New fire safety regulations in Queensland and New South Wales are posing challenges for property developers as they make it difficult to install electric vehicle (EV) chargers in apartment buildings.

As reported by The Driven, these rules require significant fire protection measures, such as sprinklers and smoke management systems, for car parks housing electric cars.

The new guidelines, issued by Fire and Rescue NSW in late April, classify electric cars as “special hazards” and recommend additional requirements, including keeping vehicles and chargers outside buildings and installing advanced fire sprinkler systems and smoke detection alarms.

Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell clarified that these measures are not required for typical home garages but for buildings with underground car parks.

Conflicting guidance on EV chargers

The new guidelines seem to contradict the National Construction Code, prompting experts to call for urgent clarification to avoid high costs and long-term consequences.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services issued similar advice, including the provision of air-handling systems.

Gary Rake, CEO of the Australian Building Codes Board, stated: “The presence of electric vehicles in a car park is now common enough to be reasonably ‘expected’ and ‘usual’ and therefore not the original intent of the special hazards provisions when they were written.”

He noted that the conditions should only apply if there is an unusual combination of electric cars and specific building features.

Impact on property developers

The changing rules are affecting property developers, architects, designers, and engineers working on new apartment buildings.

A residential developer mentioned that electric vehicle chargers are being removed from some plans due to confusing guidance and increasing demands.

“It would add a significant amount of cost because those car spaces would suddenly need to have a whole lot more infrastructure than they would otherwise have had,” the developer said.

Fred Tuckwell, chairman of the Owners Corporation Network, highlighted that more apartment residents are requesting EV chargers in their car parks but are frustrated by the lack of clear regulations.

He stated: “These rules are making it almost impossible. If we have to comply with the NSW Fire and Rescue rules, this will blow EV charging in private buildings out of the window because of the massive expense.”

Fire safety concerns and statistics

The agency responsible for collecting data on electric vehicle fires in Australia, EV FireSafe, has verified only six EV fires to date, none of which were related to battery charging or spontaneous explosions.

Emma Sutcliffe, CEO of EV FireSafe, mentioned that the greatest fire risk to electric cars follows damage to their batteries.

She noted: “The four leading causes of EV fires are road traffic collisions, submersion in floodwaters, vehicles on recall and vehicles exposed to another fire.”

Tuckwell added: “Why is it that people are asking for EVs to be treated as a special hazard when petrol and diesel vehicles are 10 to 20 times more likely to catch fire?

“To impose huge financial penalties and difficulties, including forcing people to park their car outside, is counter to common sense and to what the real situation is in the real world.”

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