The darker sides of EV ownership may not bode well for sales projections.
By Ronald Stein
Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure, Irvine, California
In the wake of a series of severe EV battery fires, one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world, General Motors has just issued safety recommendations for Bolt EV’s:
- Not to park your Chevy Bolt within 50 feet of other vehicles in case it catches fire.
- Highly recommends that Bolt EV owners not to park within 50 feet of anything you care about.
- Recommends parking on the top floor or on an open-air deck and park 50 feet or more away from another vehicle.
- Requests Bolt EV owners to not leave their vehicle charging unattended, even if they are using a charging station in a parking deck.
General Motors previously told Bolt owners
- to only charge the battery to 90 percent,
- charge more frequently,
- and avoid depleting the battery below about 70 miles of remaining range.
- And that they should also park the vehicle outside.
The recent General Motors safety announcement comes after they recalled all 143,000 of the Bolts for fire risk to replace new battery modules. A major expense to GM as that EV recall could, as Morningstar analyst David Whiston told the Detroit Free Press, cost GM some $1.8 billion.
With product liability attorneys staging on the sidelines, will other EV manufacturers start issuing similar safety recommendations to their potential EV buyers?
Internationally, electrical grid stability has become a concern, as the supply chain of generation of continuous uninterruptable electricity from coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants are being shuttered in favor of intermittent electricity generation from breezes and sunshine.
The UK has concerns about their electrical grid being able to handle intermittent, spiked electricity that comes from breezes and sunshine; or if the grid can handle tens of millions of electric vehicles charging at the same time. Under current technological, and future scenarios, that type of grid has not even come close to being invented yet. Britain will also need more electricity to make their entire transportation sector electrical. A new electrical grid will need to be built.
Under UK regulations, restricted charging times will come into force in May 2022, as new chargers in the home and workplace are to automatically switch off in peak times to avoid potential blackouts. New chargers will be pre-set to not function from 8am to 11am, and 4pm to 10pm.
In the UK, where there are currently only 300,000 battery electric vehicles (EVs) on the UK’s roads. Electric car charging points in people’s homes will be preset to switch off for nine hours each weekday at times of peak demand because ministers fear blackouts on the National Grid.
Lithium fires are horribly difficult to extinguish, and emit dangerously toxic fumes which can cause long term or even permanent dementia like brain injuries, along with a host of other usually reversible harms. Since lithium-ion fires are a chemical reaction they can only be cooled not extinguished. They end up burning for several days in some cases. To extinguish Lithium automobile battery fires, firefighters cordon off the area and spray a fine mist of water on the fire to try to keep the temperature down, then wait for it to burn itself out. Firefighters may need 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of water to contain a Tesla electric vehicle (EV) blaze than the 500 to 1,000 gallons of water they would normally use for a mainstream gas-powered car that was on fire.
A truly nightmare scenario is one in which an EV fire occurs in an underground parking garage beneath an apartment complex or a crowded office building. With the toxic fumes generated, how would the local fire department be able to respond to a fire that could not be extinguished even if they could get to it? Germany may be stepping up to the plate with a trend of banning EV’s from parking underground due to potential EV battery fires.
EV’s may be a gift for insurance scammers – just target an EV in the building, and nobody will question the insurance claim when the building burns down. On a serious note, with insufficient street parking available for business buildings and apartment dwellers, a risk of this magnitude is going to start having a real impact, on whether EVs are allowed into parking structures or on ferries, unless the problem is rectified fast.
If parking underground is limited at high rise office buildings and apartment complexes, there may be insufficient street parking available. Street parking will result in a vast amount of extension cords laying on the ground to charge the EV’s, which may be an attractive theft item for those in poverty to redeem the value of the copper.
The many items for potential EV buyer’s to be aware of such as potential fires, reductions in available changing times, and parking restrictions, may not bode well for the optimistic EV sales projections.
Ronald Stein, P.E.
Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure