So far, no cause has been publicly announced for the fire that engulfed a parking garage in Douglas Shopping Centre at the weekend, which at present has left 100 vehicles stranded in the facility, many of them completely destroyed:
MORNING AFTER: Crews are still at scene this morning in Douglas making up equipment and monitoring the building
Fire was contained to 1 section of burned out cars on 1 floor of the Multi-storey car park. The photos below show the extent to the grim reality of the morning after pic.twitter.com/79qKEbvhK8
— Cork City Fire Brigade (@CorkCityFire) September 1, 2019
In a statement yesterday, the operators of the garage, Douglas Village, said that there was at present no fixed plan for removing the destroyed cars from the facility, or re-uniting them with their owners.
The damage is expected to run into the millions.
I ask about electric cars because the safety record of such vehicles is particularly suspect when it comes to fires;
In 2018, China recorded at least 40 fire-related cases involving new-energy vehicles — a category that includes pure-electric, hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles — according to the State Administration for Market Regulation.
The electric-car sector is grappling with the challenges of quality control, boosting performance and expanding capacity to meet rising demand for batteries, said Simon Moores, London-based managing director of industry consultant Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Demand for lithium-ion batteries for EVs will surge by more than 10 times through 2030, while prices will continue to tumble, according to BNEF.
Indeed, this year has been a bad one, overall, for the electric car industry when it comes to fires (emphasis added):
A minor panic has set in about Teslas catching fire, with several recent incidents in the US, China, and Hong Kong.
Some of the fires are under investigation because the vehicles appear to have combusted for no obvious reason. There is always a small risk of overheating with the types of batteries that Tesla and other vehicles use, but the unexplained fires are worrisome.
The electric car industry has been sufficiently alarmed by such incidents as to make minimising them a major element of its defensive PR campaign.
A report from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published in 2017 found that it was likely that safety standards, and the risk of fire, would increase as the electric car industry expanded, and Lithium Ion batteries, which are used to power electric cars, remain vulnerable to catastrophic failure:
The technology is in the early stages of development. As with other high energy density storage technologies, failure of a Li-ion battery may release substantial amounts of energy that may create safety hazards. The investigation suggests that Li-ion battery safety can be managed effectively, although substantial research and development and codes and standards development is needed.
The risk of fire from electric cars is one of those stories that the Irish media, of course, does not want to cover.
The Government is preparing to make us all buy electric cars from 2030, in what must surely go down as the largest single subsidy to any single industry in the history of this state. The media are, as you might expect, 100% on board with plans to save the planet, one electric battery at a time.
If this fire was, in fact, started by the failure of a Lithium Ion battery in an electric vehicle, don’t expect to hear much about it.
But the safety concerns with electric vehicles are very real. Many of the fire incidents this year have happened in the same manner: A parked car, with nobody near it, suddenly bursting into flames, usually in a very quick, very fast fire that gives nobody time to respond.
The public should watch this one closely. I’ll be sticking with my diesel, for as long as I’m allowed the… choice.
Update: According to several reports, the car involved was not a pure electric car, but an Opel Zafira, a hybrid diesel/electric car that has been recalled by Opel on no less than four occasions because of a risk of fire arising from an electric fault. I guess they missed this one.