I wanted to bring everyone’s attention to a concern that’s been on my mind lately regarding the safety of electric vehicles (EVs) on our ferry system. We have witnessed a number of fires on car-carrying cargo vessels in the last couple of years believed to have been started by EVs. If this were to happen on one of our ferries, it would be catastrophic.
EV batteries contain the energy equivalent of a tank of gasoline or diesel fuel. EV battery fires are different in that they are not really the combustion fires that we are familiar with. They don’t require oxygen in order to sustain the reaction, the reactants are all contained within the battery as constructed making them very difficult to put out. If a battery failure occurs, it starts a runaway chain reaction causing these batteries to release all their energy in a matter of minutes, creating intense heat. We have all probably seen these fires in video clips on the internet.
This intense heat will likely set off other vehicles around it, whether they be internal combustion vehicles with tanks full of fuel, or other EVs. Fire suppression systems on ferries were not designed to handle this situation.
In an inquiry to BC Ferries, I was advised that this problem was being mitigated by not allowing EVs to charge while on board and that the latest techniques for fighting EV fires have been implemented. Needless to say, I did not find is very reassuring. I am quite certain that the EVs on cargo ships that caught fire were not charging at the time and had the latest techniques at hand.
Perhaps now is the time to consider the possibility of an EV fire on one of our ferries and do something before it turns into a tragedy.
Rob Herman, Sechelt