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The facts about recent electric bus fires in France

False or misleading posts about EV fires flood the internet on a daily basis. The latest spurious sensation was a natural gas-powered bus that caught fire in Italy—a video of the catastrophic conflagration was posted online, and within hours, it had travelled around the world and back again, falsely described as an EV fire.

In fact, statistically speaking, EVs have a far lower risk of fire than ICE vehicles. A recent study by AutoinsuranceEZ reported only 25 fires in electric vehicles per 100,000 sales, compared to 1,530 for gas vehicles and (strangely) 3,475 for hybrids.

That said, every EV fire needs to be thoroughly investigated, and battery-makers need to continue doing all they can to make their products safer. The goal of the industry should be to make the incidence of EV fires as close to zero as possible.

With all that out of the way, here’s what we know so far about the recent, highly sensationalized electric bus fires in France.

Paris public transport operator RATP temporarily took 149 electric buses made by Bolloré’s Bluebus brand out of service after two of the vehicles caught fire within a month. In early April, a Bluebus caught fire on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. More recently, another burned near the city’s national library. In both incidents, the buses were destroyed, but no injuries were reported.

“The RATP has requested a full report from the manufacturer Bolloré to explain the causes of these incidents,” said the agency. “Given that this was the second fire recently on an electric bus of the same Bolloré Bluebus 5SE series in less than a month, RATP took the decision…to temporarily withdraw the 149 electric buses [from service].”

RATP told Reuters that it has 500 electric buses, including models from Bolloré Bluebus, Alstom and Heuliez Bus, in its fleet of 4,700 vehicles.

At least some of Bolloré’s buses use a novel solid-state LMP (Lithium Metal Polymer) battery technology that was developed by Blue Solutions, another unit of the Bolloré group, and is also used by Daimler in its eCitaro electric transit bus. It appears that the buses that burned in Paris use this chemistry, but this hasn’t been confirmed by Bolloré.

In a separate incident, an electric bus made by the Turkish manufacturer Atak caught fire in the southern French city of Carcassonne. This bus was apparently on a test run with no passengers aboard, and no injuries were reported.

Sources: Le Monde, Reuters, L’Indépendant, Le Figaro

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