Certain electric vehicle owners banned from charging after deadly Hanoi fire

By Minh Hy   September 15, 2023 | 05:00 pm PT
Certain electric vehicle owners banned from charging after deadly Hanoi fire
A guard instructs a person to park electric vehicles in a separate area at an apartment building in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Mai
Following the deadly fire at a mini apartment building in Hanoi's Thanh Xuan District, some owners of electric vehicles are prohibited from charging them at residential parking garages.

Huyen Trang, 33, called each of her friends to ask for the favor of letting her charge her electric motorbike their place. Her VinFast Feliz S was at only 20% but the apartment building she stays at has already banned charging vehicles in the basement. The parking lot where she works is out in the open and has no electric socket.

Ever since Tuesday's fire, which claimed the lives of 56 people, information saying the cause of the fire was due to electric vehicles has been circulating online. Despite authorities having yet to conclude on the cause of the fire, several owners of apartment buildings have begun to ban charging electric vehicles in their basements, even going as far as not allowing potential tenants to rent if they own electric motorbikes.

Manh Mai, who lives in an apartment in Linh Dam Ward in Hoang Mai District, said that ever since the fire happened, guards have instructed people to separate electric vehicles from those using gasoline.

"Previously, we could place our vehicles wherever, and there were no specific regulations regarding charging vehicles or fire prevention," Manh said, adding that since his apartment building was built a long time ago, there was no specific design for a place to charge vehicles.

Nguyen Tu, who lives in a newer apartment building, is now also in a tough situation, as most apartment buildings at the place have banned charging vehicles in the basement. Some owners have even resorted to removing their batteries, or bringing their vehicles all the way up to their apartments for charging.

Many electric vehicle owners feel that they are being driven into a corner.

"I feel discriminated against, like owning an electric vehicle is a sin. People began to get worried and avoid the vehicles, just like the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic," said Trang after only one friend was willing to let her charge her vehicle after four others turned her down.

Pham Thanh Tam, deputy head of a fire prevention police team in Hanoi, said separating electric vehicles away from others in parking spaces is necessary to reduce the risks of fire and explosions. Electric vehicles might not be the fire sources, but they can worsen existing fire. Tam said people's worries are not unfounded, but they should not be taken to the extreme.

"If charging vehicles is banned everywhere, where will users charge their vehicles then?"

An expert on fire prevention said electric vehicles, if properly quality-checked and properly charged, harbor very low risks. However, besides major brands like VinFast or Yadea, whose vehicles often have proper documentation, a large number of electric motorbikes on the market were imported from China and have no quality evaluation certificates, and certain users like to modify their vehicles, leading to increased risks of explosions and fire.

The fire at the Hanoi apartment block on Tuesday night in Thanh Xuan District started from the first-floor parking lot. The owner of the building has been arrested on fire safety violations.

The block is a 10-story house over nearly 200 square meters that was divided into 45 apartments for rent, each of 20-50 square meters. The owner only gained a permit in 2015 to build a 6-story house.

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