Video backfires with claimed German electric car fire - Australian Associated Press
FILE - This Thursday, April 1, 2021 file photo shows parking spots with charging stations for electric vehicles at a public park in Orlando, Fla. If the auto industry is to succeed in its bet that electric vehicles will soon dominate the roads, it will need to overcome a big reason why many people are still avoiding them: Fear of running out of juice between Point A and Point B. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Video backfires with claimed German electric car fire

AAP FactCheck July 13, 2021

The Statement

A Facebook video post claims Germany has banned electric vehicles from parking underground because of the risk of fire.

The video shows several electric vehicles (EVs) parked at a charging station. After 10 seconds, smoke emerges from beneath a van before a fire rages quickly and moves to a truck alongside. The blaze engulfs the truck and begins to burn a third vehicle.

The post’s caption reads: “Charging station for electric vehicles in Germany shows why Germany will not let you park electric cars underground. A shorting battery cell causes a fire which takes 1:15 sec to destroy three cars!”

At the time of writing, the July 5 post by an Australian user had been shared more than 9,500 times and the video had been viewed over 190,000 times.

A later example of the same video and claim, posted by a Facebook page administered from New Zealand, had been shared more than 200 times. Its post also referred to New Zealand’s incentives to encourage the uptake of EVs.

A Facebook post
 The post’s video shows a fire underneath an electric vehicle parked at a charging station. 

The Analysis

The fire seen in the Facebook video may be a dramatic electric vehicle fire, but it’s not from Germany – nor has the European nation introduced a ban on electric cars being parked underground.

The blaze seen in the video took place in the city of Dongguan in China’s Guangdong province on May 8, 2020, an incident reported on alongside the same video by outlets including Yahoo!News and an EV industry website at the time.

The incident was also covered by the Chinese media site Sixth Tone, which revealed the fire-damaged EV was manufactured by Zhengzhou Nissan, a joint venture company. Chinese characters are visible on the vehicles in the video.

The fire was completely unrelated to temporary decisions by two German car parks, in the states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, to ban EVs from parking underground this year. Both decisions were the result of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle fires, and were not part of a national policy on the safe storage of EVs.

A spokeswoman from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure confirmed to AAP FactCheck via email that it had not introduced any ban on electric vehicles from being parked underground due to the risk of fires.

She noted that fire protection and fighting was the responsibility of each state, pointing to the city of Kulmbach’s ban following an ICE vehicle fire.

“The ban on electric and hybrid vehicles entering that parking facility was imposed as a transitional measure and has been already repealed again,” she said.

“In principle, the owner can regulate or restrict the use of his public or private garage (parking garage, underground garage) on his own authority.”

A news report on the Kulmbach car park reopening in February said the fire on September 7, 2020 involved an old VW Golf. It also explained the reason behind the ban on EVs, quoting Michael Kuhnlein from the city’s civil engineering department.

“In future, electric and hybrid cars will no longer be allowed to park in the underground car park. 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,” Mr Kuhnlein told inFranken.de.

A report from German news agency DPA added details on the bans in Kulmbach and Leonberg in Baden-Wuerttemberg, saying that Teslas and other EVs as well as petrol and diesel hybrids were not allowed to use the two underground car parks. The Leonberg car park reopened to electric and hybrid cars on March 30, according to the city’s website.

Thomas Neumann, a policy officer with Avere, the European Association for Electromobility, said the bans were limited to the two examples – which were widely reported on at the time.

“No broader pattern of such bans has emerged since. The German Parking Association, automotive association VDA, and the German Firefighters’ Association are all of the opinion that such a ban is not necessary, given EVs do not pose a more significant fire hazard than ICE vehicles and EV fires can be extinguished safely and effectively,” he said.

Eva Siegfried, of VDA, the German Association of the Automotive Industry, confirmed to AAP FactCheck that the Kulmbach ban had been lifted in May, and that no federal restriction on EVs being parked underground was in place in Germany.

Public car parking spaces in Orlando, Florida
 A row of parking spots with charging stations for electric vehicles. 

The Verdict

The Facebook video is of an EV charging station fire in China during May 2020 and is not from Germany, as claimed in the post.

German has also not barred EVs from parking underground. Temporary bans were put in place in two car parks over fire concerns but both have since been repealed.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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