Government and unions urging for EV safety

The New South Wales Government is reminding all electric vehicle owners to affix a safety label to their number plates to help emergency services identify hazards when attending a vehicle accident.

Safety labels are mandatory on electric vehicles (EV), including hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in NSW to ensure that firefighters and other emergency service responders can safely handle a fire or rescue in the event of an emergency.

Fire and Rescue NSW Station Officer and Team Leader for Alternative + Renewable Energy Technology, Daniel O’Dea, said the labels protect firefighters while ensuring community safety.

“New vehicle technology brings new challenges,” he said.

“However, by being able to quickly identify the type of hazard, firefighters and other emergency services can implement the most appropriate strategies to ensure the safety of vehicle occupants.”

The State Government’s reminder comes on the back of a surge in sales of EVs, which saw 7,247 battery EVs sold during September and 5,141 hybrid and plug-in-hybrid vehicles.

Year to date, 21,771 EVs have been sold.

Concerns over the safety of EVs in emergencies is front of mind in the community after the Federal Government and crossbenchers agreed to exempt EVs from import tarrifs and fringe benefit tax, making the vehicles more affordable for employers to include in salary packages.

In response to their dangers, the United Firefighters Union of Australia’s (UFUA) National Committee of Management recently passed a resolution which calls on Australia’s various levels of government to regulate the management of risks and hazards associated with EVs and battery energy storage systems (BESS).

United Firefighters Union of Australia (UFUA) National Secretary, Greg McConville, explained that EV emergencies present several risks to firefighters and the community.

“When the integrity of lithium batteries is compromised, the energy they store is released as heat, known as ‘thermal runaway’, and this can cause fires which are extremely difficult to extinguish while releasing an extraordinary array of deadly toxic gases,” he said.

“A typical car fire would require less than 1400 litres of water to extinguish, but an EV battery fire in an electric vehicle may require between 2000 and 30,000 litres of water.

“That massive amount of water can also be highly contaminated and would need to be captured and treated, presenting significant logistical problems for fire services and governments.”

NSW residents can get safety labels for free at their nearest Service NSW service centre, or they can be ordered online by visiting Transport NSW’s online portal.

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