With the rise of electric vehicles, strata owners have to adapt by incorporating EV charging stations in their buildings. This shift requires a profound reassessment of fire safety, particularly concerning EV batteries, which differ significantly from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. This article explores the evolving fire safety landscape in strata buildings equipped with EV charging stations, drawing insights from property insurance and the critical role of design professionals, shedding light on insurers' criteria in these specialised spaces.
Property Insurance for Buildings with EV Chargers
By June 2023, 8.4% of new cars sold in Australia were EVs, marking a 120.5% increase compared to 2022. This surge presents two implications for strata buildings. First, a rapid increase in the volume of large batteries stored in residents' car parks. Second, a growing demand for the installation of EV charging stations in these spaces. Both changes have significant potential implications for the risk profile of strata buildings.
The unique nature of fire risks associated with EV batteries requires specialised handling in fire incidents. Insurers are aware of this, prompting new risk assessments and a focus on mitigating these new risks through strict measures. Properties lacking these measures may face challenges in obtaining adequate insurance:
- Proper storage of charging cables and associated equipment to prevent liabilities like trips or falls.
- Clear areas around EV charging stations, free from combustible storage.
- Regular maintenance of charging stations and associated wiring.
- Installation of appropriate fire protection measures in accessible areas near EV charging stations.
Design Professionals' Role in Ensuring Fire Safety
Architects, engineers, and building surveyors play a pivotal role in implementing EV charging stations while prioritising fire safety. Navigating this role also presents challenges, including interpreting regulations predating widespread EV use, limited scientific data, and rapidly evolving EV technology.
Professional Indemnity Insurers are cautious about emerging risks within an industry and seek specific measures from design professionals to mitigate potential liabilities:
- Demonstrating education and experience in the EV charging space through past projects and continuous professional development.
- Establishing clear building code parameters, potentially aided by regulators updating guidelines.
- Implementing robust quality assurance protocols like internal or external peer reviews.
These measures position design professionals to access appropriate professional indemnity insurance. In our experience at Honan, we have not seen adverse action taken by insurers for professionals involved in buildings containing EV charging stations. With the above measures in place, we anticipate this trend to continue. Vigilance from the industry is recommended, recognising insurers' potential for changes based on evolving circumstances.
What's on the Horizon
The evolution of EV-related risks is expected to progress rapidly, shaping discussions around risk and electric vehicles. Key factors influencing the discussion include:
- Widespread EV prevalence and its implications, especially if all vehicles in a car park are battery-powered.
- Varied fire safety implications based on the technology adopted by EVs.
- Insights from robust data sets on the fire safety implications of housing and charging EVs.
- The evolution of regulatory frameworks to accommodate EV considerations.
- Legal apportionment of liability among involved parties in case of losses.
The intersection of fire safety, insurance considerations, and design professionals' roles will continue reshaping how strata buildings accommodate the rise of EVs. It’s critically important to inform your broker and or insurer if you have electric vehicle charging stations within your building complex.
With you all the way
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Head of Placement - Professionals