Amendments to the Australian Government’s National Construction Code mean new developments must make provisions for EV charging from October 2023.

Amendments to the code oblige developers to ensure there’s space for switchboards and EV chargers in new builds: for 100 per cent of parking car spaces in apartment buildings, 10 per cent of spaces in offices and retail, and 20 per cent of spaces in other commercial buildings.

To support these changes, the government’s Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) this week put out an advisory note to help builders meet the requirements in the safest fashion, having engaged Australian research team EV FireSafe for guidance.

The recommendations – which you can read here – include fitting a master isolation switch with clear signage; only installing chargers with the Regulatory Compliance Mark; storing an emergency services pack in case of fire; putting bollards around chargers to prevent impacts; and updating block plans.

It also recommends prioritising so-called ‘smart charging’ that allows remote monitoring and access to disconnect power supply to a connected EV, giving emergency responders “another potential method of shutdown from unit to EV”.

“We believe the recommendations set out in this advisory note are low cost, have low visual impact, are easily implementable and reflect the better practices already being adopted by many reputable suppliers,” the note says.

“These recommendations will help reduce the risk of substandard equipment or installation practices emerging as the EV charging industry grows.”

The board said it would “continue to work with other government bodies and emergency response agencies” to review the latest evidence on EV charging trends from around the world and update the guidelines along the away.

“Global evidence indicates that EVs are much less likely to be involved in a fire than traditional petrol and diesel vehicles,” added ABCB chief executive Gary Rake.

“Based on knowledge gained from around the world, our advisory note sets out some really sensible and low cost things that we can do to make charging safer for our buildings, residents and first responders.”

EV FireSafe keeps a database of verifiable worldwide passenger EV battery fires and tracks emergency response methods that work. A few interesting findings as of April 30 include:

  • EV FireSafe has verified 375 EV traction battery fires and is investigating a further 87. To give this context, more than 10 million electric cars were sold worldwide in 2022.
  • Some 18 per cent of total EV battery fire incidents took place while the car was connected to a charger, with a further 5 per cent disconnected from the charger within 10 minutes of the fire.
  • The main causes of thermal runaway and ignition or explosion in order are collisions and debris, an OEM battery fault, water submersion, workshop error, arson, an external fire, and overheating.
  • 95 per cent of EV battery fires were ignition events with jet-like directional flames, with the remaining 5 per cent being a vapour cloud explosion usually in an enclosed space.

MORE: EV battery fires rare, but on Australian Government’s agenda

Mike Costello
Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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