They represent a real danger if a fire breaks out.
While automakers continue making grand announcements declaring their emissions-free futures, this won't happen overnight. It'll take 15 years or more before we're all driving EVs, and many things need to happen between now and then: such as creating and implementing procedures to extinguish battery-related fires. The US government recently issued a report regarding this issue, which is also vital for firefighters. But one parking garage is not taking any chances with potential battery fires.
According to German publication InFranken, an underground parking garage located in Kulmbach, Germany has decided to outright ban battery-electric and hybrid vehicles.
The decision was made following a five-month renovation following - you guessed it - a vehicle fire. "In the future, electric and hybrid cars will no longer be allowed to park in the underground car park," said Michael Kuhnlein from the civil engineering department. "The fire brigade cannot extinguish such vehicles, they have to let them burn out. The underground car park is also not high enough to pull out burning cars with heavy equipment."
Engineering officials were not aware that lithium-ion batteries can only be cooled with extinguishing water and will continue to burn for several days. However, it was not a hybrid or EV that caught on fire in the garage last September, but rather an old VW Golf.
It was in the aftermath of that fire that city engineers realized a previously unknown problem: the reinforced concrete cannot withstand heat for a certain period of time. If there is too much heat, the concrete will burst away and the iron structure could then melt, creating a risk of a complete structural collapse. Since it's not possible to completely replace all of that concrete and iron in any underground structure, the easiest thing to do was ban EVs and hybrids as a precautionary measure.
In 2019, a Tesla Model S suddenly caught on fire in the underground parking garage of the world's second-tallest building, Shanghai Tower. Fortunately, the building didn't collapse because its underground parking garage gave out, but this issue is certainly a concern for all garages above and below ground from now on.