December 1, 2023

Isle of Wight Observer News

The Island's favourite newspaper

Are electric cars safe on cross-Solent ferries?

2 min read

The fire at Luton Airport

Bembridge businessman, Tim Bristow, has questioned the safety of electric vehicles (EVs) being carried on cross-Solent ferries after a serious fire in a car park at Luton airport.

Mr Bristow raised the issue with both Red Funnel and Wightlink after the intense fire caused severe disruption to flights and damaged around 1,500 cars. He was told by Red Funnel: “We are fully compliant with all current legislation and adhere to survey and inspection regimes by our regulator, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, to guarantee the highest safety standards in our operations.

“However, we still continuously monitor safety developments and collaborate closely with relevant authorities to ensure that our practices align with the latest safety guidelines.” Mr Bristow said he had not received any response in writing from Wightlink

Despite initial reports, the fire in Luton is not now thought to have been started by an EV, but Mr Bristow believes that EVs parked near the epicentre of the fire will have ignited and contributed to its severity and intensity.

Fires in lithium-ion batteries are known to be extremely difficult to extinguish and can also emit highly toxic fumes. There has been a number of car-carrying ships at sea which have caught fire, and there is fierce debate over whether EVs were to blame.

Wightlink has recently banned E-scooters and other small electric vehicles from its ferries, ports and buildings, saying it is because the items are not tested or regulated and there have been “increasing numbers of reports of fires linked to their batteries”.

The IW Observer has asked both ferry companies for a comment on their safety arrangements based on best practice guidance issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for roll-on, roll-off ferries.

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