Electric cars plugged into a charging station

Safety Precautions for EV Charging

From fire to theft prevention, learn how to maintain safe and secure electric vehicle charging stations.
Kenneth Travers
Kenneth Travers, Technical Manager - Property Risk Engineering, The Hartford
Stacie Prescott
Stacie Prescott, Energy Underwriting Officer, The Hartford
Loren Kippels, Inland Marine Underwriting Officer, The Hartford
Loren Kippels, Inland Marine Underwriting Officer, The Hartford
Demand for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations is growing, especially where people work, shop or visit – public parking garages, hotels, apartment buildings and shopping centers. Between 2018 and 2023, the number of charging stations nationwide more than doubled, increasing from 22,826 stations to 64,187.1
Yet, despite the rising number of EV charging stations being constructed, “there has been limited government regulation to provide safety guidelines for the construction and maintenance of EV charging stations,” says Kenneth Travers, property technical manager for the risk engineering team at The Hartford.
A particular concern is EV charging stations being added to existing parking garages, where space may be limited. Putting EV charging units too close together, or too close to cars, can increase the risk of fire or electrical damage. “When a new garage is being constructed and designed, conversations about safety happen on the front-end, but when an EV charging station is being added to an existing structure, it is much more difficult to manage the risk,” Travers says.
Property owners who decide to install EV charging stations need to be aware of the risks to guard against property loss and damage. The most common risks are from an EV battery pack that initiates a fire and involves thermal runaway, and vandalism. “From a large loss perspective, the biggest concern is the type and condition of EVs being charged, especially in enclosed facilities like hotel and apartment parking garages,” Travers says.
“The problem is fire can emanate from a damaged car or a car with an unknown problem,” says Stacie Prescott, chief underwriting officer at The Hartford. “Users drive up to plug-in to charge and they could actually be the main source of ignition that can spread throughout the parking garage.”
The batteries present in electric vehicles present fire underwriting concerns. “EV manufacturers use varied battery chemistries, each striking a balance between energy density, charge cycles, safety and cost. With a move towards universal connections, property owners lose the ability to control whether a vehicle pulling up to the EV charging station uses a preferred battery technology. While some chemistries have superior thermal stability, lithium-ion batteries can undergo thermal runaway fire events,” says Loren Kippels, inland marine underwriting officer at The Hartford. Like a runaway train, there is nothing you can do to stop this type of fire. “It's just a matter of containing it, keeping it from spreading and keeping the temperatures down,” he says.
Thermal runaway fire events are not common, but they do happen. In 2023, a state-of-the-art electric transit bus equipped with battery packs burst into flames in a Connecticut garage.Over the past few years, there have been at least seven fire events in parking garages involving EV’s, some originating while being charged. In several of these incidents, the fires spread to adjoining or nearby vehicles which increased combustibility due to the amount of plastics within the vehicles as well as composites on the exterior, creating damage to concrete structural components.

Reducing Fire Risk at EV Charging Stations

Despite these concerns, property owners can take steps to reduce the risk of damage from fire or an electrical hazard.
  • Proper spacing: Allow 5-to-6-feet between charging stations to provide space to extinguish any possible sparks or ignition that might occur during charging. Provide enough overhead room between the vehicles and the ceiling to allow for additional fire protection with overhead sprinklers.
  • Outdoor charging stations: Rather than placing the charging stations in the interior of the building, place them outside and away from the building.
  • Preventative maintenance program: To ensure the chargers are always operating correctly, contract with a third-party to perform electrical preventive maintenance on EV charging stations and supporting electrical equipment, including connector cables, transformers, switchgear and safety switches.
  • Cameras: In addition to sprinkler and fire detection equipment, thermal and visual imaging devices can be used to identify a fire event, help determine where the fire started and possibly prevent further damage by allowing for offsite monitoring.
  • Understand wildfire risk: A charging station near brush in an area with potential for wildfires is a liability. Don’t plant landscaping that can get brittle and dry next to a charging station, particularly in areas with wildfire risk. Provide a defensible space of at least 100 feet around the charging station area devoid of combustible landscaping and brush.

Preventing Vandalism and Theft

EV charging stations are also vulnerable to theft and vandalism. Common issues range from graffiti to malicious and intentional damage, such as cutting charging cables. “EV charging stations tend to have a high frequency of loss because they are largely unprotected,” Kippels says. “They’re often sitting in the public domain, so anyone who wants to walk up and mess with it can do so largely unimpeded.”
Property owners can take steps to protect the EV charging station from vandalism and theft, including:
  • Charging station positioning: Build EV charging stations in highly-trafficked areas, like in front of a store.
  • Adequate lighting: Make sure the charging station is in a well-lit area.
  • Physical security: If there is a security guard, make sure the EV charging station is part of the guard’s regular rounds.
  • Maintenance and inspection: Inspect the charging station frequently. Cables may be tampered with by people seeking copper or those with anti-EV views.
  • Consider braided cables: Braided cables offer some level of protection against cutting. However, they will not defend against bolt cutters.
Although EV charging stations can pose potential risks to owners and managers, the benefits may outweigh the downsides. “EV charging stations help businesses appeal to consumers interested in sustainability and customers who drive EVs. You are providing those consumers a convenience and a reason to stop,” Kippels says.
1 How Many EV Charging Stations Are in the U.S.? 2024, Consumer Affairs, February 20, 2024
2 Report Identifies Issue With Liquid Accumulating in EV Batteries, Including CT Bus That Burned, CT Insider, July 20, 2023
La información proporcionada en estos materiales brinda información general y de asesoría. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford does not warrant that the implementation of any view or recommendation contained herein will: (i) result in the elimination of any unsafe conditions at your business locations or with respect to your business operations; or (ii) be an appropriate legal or business practice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for the control or correction of hazards or legal compliance with respect to your business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute our undertaking, on your behalf or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that your business premises, locations or operations are safe or healthful, or are in compliance with any law, rule or regulation. Readers seeking to resolve specific safety, legal or business issues or concerns related to the information provided in these materials should consult their safety consultant, attorney or business advisors. All information and representations herein are as of April 2024.
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