A state-owned public transport operator in Paris, France, the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, has pulled out 149 electric buses from its fleet after two of them spontaneously exploded within the same month.
The RATP decided to temporarily retire the electric vehicles after the second explosion occurred around 9 a.m. on April 29 near the François Mitterrand Library, according to reporting from the local newspaper Le Parisien and a RATP news release.
Footage of the bus engulfed in flames in Paris’s 13th arrondissement was widely circulated on social media.
A video by VIXX compiling the viral videos showed smoke emanating from the top of the bus, where the battery is located. The smoke gave way to an explosion and a shower of sparks that covered the vehicle’s mid-section and nearby areas.
Flames eventually engulfed the electric vehicle, and the ravaging inferno gave rise to tall columns of thick black smoke visible from surrounding areas, the video showed. The air was filled with the smell of burning plastic.
Fortunately, there were no casualties due to the fire. The bus driver was able to get out, the arrondissement’s mayor Jérôme Coumet confirmed.
Firefighters promptly responded to the incident. Authorities closed the nearby metro station from 9 am to 11 am to help them put out the blazing inferno, Le Figaro reported.
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The bus that was engulfed in flames on April 29 and the one that caught fire earlier that month both belonged to the Bluebus 5SE series of the brand Bolloré, according to the RATP.
The RATP has requested the manufacturer to carry out a full investigation to explain the causes of the fire and provide the RATP with an action plan to bring the electric buses safely back into operation.
The two fires in Paris and similar incidents worldwide have raised concerns about the safety of electric vehicles amid a push toward making them replace those running on fossil fuels by activists and lawmakers.
The government of India last month urged electric motorcycle companies operating in the country to carry out voluntary recalls of their products.
The country’s authorities did so to ensure electric motorcycles were safe for consumers after a series of electric scooters caught fire in the country, the Indian newspaper The Hindu reported.
“Lithium has a natural affinity for fires,’’ Amit Das, the founder of the Indian multi-brand electric vehicle store chain Electric One, said, according to the Business Standard. Lithium is a common element in electric vehicle batteries.
Battery fires in electric vehicles, according to Forbes, can happen due to two reasons.
One is a car crash that damages individual cells in the battery, which can eventually lead to a fire engulfing other cells and subsequently the entire automobile. This, according to Forbes, was the issue with early Teslas. The other reason is manufacturing defects.
Besides safety concerns, electric vehicles face other sets of problems, such as governments adding new taxes to compensate for revenue losses that came with incentives given to motorists for switching from gas-powered vehicles to electric ones.
On top of that are ethical concerns that arise due to the nature of the process of mining raw materials to make electric vehicles and the emissions involved therein.