How Robotic Parking Systems Contain (and Prevent) Catastrophe

Imagine being a firefighter faced with a whole new type of fire–one that burns three times as hot as a conventional fire (5000 vs 1500 degrees) and one that is not extinguished by conventional firefighting methods like water.

That is exactly what today’s fire fighters are facing with fires originating from lithium batteries.

Lithium batteries are used in a variety of devices including vaping devices; personal electronics like cell phones, tablets and laptops; as well as E-bikes, scooters, tools and solar power backup storage.

The most concerning issue for operators of public parking garages is the occurrence of fires originating from lithium batteries in electric vehicles (EVs). This concern is growing as the number of EVs continues to increase on roadways and in garages.

In 2023, EV sales accounted for nearly 6% of all auto sales in the US. It is projected that this number could rise to 80% of annual sales by 2040. Globally, the number is even higher with EVs comprising 9.5% of auto sales. That is 1 in every 250 cars on the road. These numbers are expected to reach 58% globally by 2040.

As the number of drivers availing themselves of this transportation option continues to grow, understanding how to control EV fires has become a top priority for firefighters and first responders.

The Electric Vehicle Fire

EV fires are notoriously difficult to put out. The amount of water required is 10 to 100 times more in an EV car fire than a typical gasoline powered car fire. Over 36,000 gallons of water was used to control a recent EV car fire in Alabama. To put this in perspective, consider that a typical car fire requires roughly 500 gallons of water to put out. In fact, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, water may not actually help. Fire departments across America are finding the best way to extinguish a flaming electric vehicle is to stand back and let it burn.

An electric vehicle fire can occur as a result of a car crash, faulty components, an internal battery failure, or a fender bender that causes damage to the battery. EVs can catch fire even when they are turned off and parked.

EV fires cause a chain reaction called “thermal runaway” in the lithium-ion battery; the most common type of battery used in EVs today. When an EV battery is ignited, it releases the stored chemical energy, causing a rapid increase in temperature. When this happens, the temperature in a battery can rise from 212 F (100 C) to 1,800 F (1000 very quickly. This then results in an exploding combustion of the battery electrolyte vapor, with intense heat and highly toxic smoke, and can easily ignite surrounding cars and materials. There have been numerous such fires in electric buses, cars in parking garages, electric scooters, and EVs on the road. These fires are exceptionally dangerous to both drivers and first responders working to control the fire.

Car Fire Risks in Public Parking Garages

Whether an EV or regular ICE (Internal Combustion Engine), any type of vehicle stored in a parking garage can pose a fire hazard. In fact, though an electric vehicle fire is much more difficult to control, the likelihood of an EV catching on fire is less than a traditional ICE.

According to some research, a hybrid car fire is more likely to happen and seems to be the most dangerous. The presence of a gasoline engine next to a high-powered electric battery system is the primary cause of problems with hybrid cars. This combination, gas and electric, generates a lot of heat. This heat can be dangerous for the lithium-ion battery in the car, potentially leading to a thermal runaway and fire.

An example is the Luton Airport fire. A massive, devastating fire at the airport car park in October destroyed more than 1,400 cars.

The Robotic Parking System Fire Safety Solution

Firefighters respond to over 170,000 EV and ICE car fires a year in the U.S. To provide a solution to those occurring in public parking garages, Robotic Parking Systems recently innovated and submitted a patent application for a multi-faceted solution.

Essentially, the solution is rapid containment. In garages equipped with this fire protection method, every car storage space would be monitored by sensors to detect a fire at the earliest possible stage. Robots in these garages will quickly transport the burning vehicle to a hermetically sealed containment box. Once safely away from other vehicles, fire suppression inside the containment box would take place.

In a Robotic Parking System, which uses pallets to store vehicles and storage units, this process is relatively simple and inexpensive. This fully automated parking system is already equipped with sensors and automation, so it is simply a matter of adding containment spaces on each level.

The Future of Parking Garage Fire Safety

Robotic Parking Systems looks forward to working hand in hand with local fire departments and developers to create the safest public parking garages possible. Architects and developers interested in learning more about Robotic Parking Systems and our safety innovations can reach out to our experts through the link below. Initial plans of a Robotic Parking System for development projects are provided at no cost.

Contact Robotic Parking Systems

Additional References:
Best Way to Extinguish a Flaming Electric Vehicle? Let It Burn.(Wall Street Journal, Nov 2023)
Norwegian Airport Parking Garage Fire Torches Hundreds of Cars, Ground Flights (The Drive, Jan 2020)
“It looked like a ball of fire”: U.K. parking garage destroys 1,400 cars (CBS New Ja, 2018)
Lithium-ion battery fires are a growing public safety concern − here’s how to reduce the risk ( (Sept. 2023 Clemson News)
Environmental Fact Sheet: Lithium Batteries (Dec. 2020 Vermont Agency of Natural Resources)
EV fires can be especially dangerous. Here’s why (WBAL News Baltimore, Nov 2023)
Lithium-ion battery fires from electric cars, bikes and scooters are on the rise. Are firefighters ready (CBS Boston, Aug 2023)

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One Size Fits All

Exclusive pallet technology allows Robotic Parking Systems to safely park cars and trucks of all sizes whether wide, long, tall, heavy or with low ground clearance. You don’t have to post a list of vehicles excluded from your garage. We handle vehicles that others can’t.