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Several German cities halt use of e-buses following series of unresolved cases of fire

October 24, 2021

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Dennis Ambler

 

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The potential risks of electromobility are being closely examined in Germany after a third major fire in a bus depot apparently caused by an electric bus. Public transport companies are taking action after the electric bus allegedly triggered a fire in Stuttgart last week, newspaper Die Welt reports.

The Munich public transport company, MVG, is taking eight similar e-buses out of service until the cause of the fire in Stuttgart has been clarified. The fire may have started while the bus was being charged in the depot, according to investigators, who assume that a technical defect may be the cause of the fire. The 30 September fire completely destroyed 25 buses in the depot, including two with electric drives, causing damage worth millions of euros.

The Stuttgart transport company, SSB, has also halted the use of electric buses in the city. The incident followed a similar fire in June in a bus depot in Hanover, which destroyed the hall and nine buses. E-buses were then recalled but are expected to resume service in November. In April, a fire at the Rheinbahn depot in Düsseldorf caused damages totalling several million euros. Investigators determined the fire had been triggered by a technical issue but could not clearly identify the cause.

While the number of electric buses in German public transport doubled last year compared to 2019, a recent survey found that 58 percent of Germans had doubts about the “environmental compatibility” of electric mobility.

40 Comments
  1. Gerry, England permalink
    October 24, 2021 10:35 am

    Electric buses are quite safe unless you plug them in to charge them it seems.

    What they need are concrete bunkers to hold a bus while it is being charged so when it does catch fire it doesn’t spread. Yet more cost on top of what must be more expensive buses than normal ones. Ironically, battery powered buses in a city area good idea if – and it is a big if – pollution really is a problem.

    • Ian Magness permalink
      October 24, 2021 10:39 am

      Yes, Gerry, it’s great because we transfer all the environmental and human rights issues away from our cities in the developed world to areas of the less developed world where the governments and businesses don’t give a toss about the conditions in the mines and factories or the age and types of people that have to carry out the work. What’s not to like?

    • In The Real World permalink
      October 24, 2021 11:10 am

      Any form of electric transport is not a good idea .
      The buses are very expensive , proven to be a fire hazard , and a lot of the time will run out of go before they do their days work .
      The lockdown proved that petrol/ diesel vehicles do not cause hardly any of the pollution in the cities , an 80% reduction in traffic had no effect on emission levels ..

      And now , with the huge increases in electricity prices to pay for unreliables generation , several UK railway companies are dropping their electric trains to go back to diesel as the electric ones are too expensive to run .

      With the total generation capacity nowhere near enough to charge up electric vehicles in most countries , the whole EV idea is just more, very expensive, Green insanity . ,

      • Gerry, England permalink
        October 25, 2021 1:20 pm

        I read about the return to diesel traction. I am blessed with both around here and yes, there are times when diesel wins. Such as when the traction power fails and also in snow and ice when pick-up is a problem.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        October 25, 2021 1:29 pm

        As far as transport goes there are actually some sensible uses. Mutlti-drop delivery vehicles. I thought this when chatting about fuel supply problems with my Hermes delivery lady. Of course the classic is the milk float and they used lead-acid batteries. Provided the range comfortably covers the daily use and can cope with the load, they are good solution in urban areas. Probably less so my way given that our road was flooded by the overnight range on Wednsday/Thursday.

    • Ian Wilson permalink
      October 24, 2021 3:35 pm

      Another way of running electric buses without the fire risk of lithium-ion batteries is to pick up current from overhead wires. We used to call them trolley-buses. i rather liked them, they were quiet and smooth. They are not quite extinct, some cities such as Saltzburg still use them.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        October 24, 2021 5:45 pm

        Ian, take a trip to Limoges or Lyons if you like trolley buses. These French cities both use them for public transport. Limoges is in a very picturesque but little known area of France.

      • October 24, 2021 6:04 pm

        I remember the London trolleys in the 1950s!

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        October 24, 2021 9:29 pm

        From memory Poland has a newer design in which the charging is done (overhead) at the bus stop and the battery supplies the power for short distances (meaning much less weight to carry).

  2. Joe Public permalink
    October 24, 2021 10:38 am

    The electric bus used as a publicity stunt for the G7 gab-fest in Cornwall presented no risk to Cornish folk.

    https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/touring-electric-coach-stranded-eden-5524525

  3. October 24, 2021 10:53 am

    The 30 September fire completely destroyed 25 buses in the depot, including two with electric drives, causing damage worth millions of euros.

    Oh, the ‘carbon’ emissions from the inferno 🙄

  4. Devoncamel permalink
    October 24, 2021 11:28 am

    Reminds me of Red Ken’s bendy buses that had a habit of self combusting whilst clogging up the streets of London.
    The German story is another example of making decisions based on abstract well-meaning virtuous intentions, without thinking them through. Boris et al appear hell bent on doing likewise with the ruinous net zero agenda. Of course the politics behind net zero is puritanical, regressive and economically suicidal.

    • Gamecock permalink
      October 24, 2021 12:01 pm

      This.

      I’ve got nothing against electric buses. “Any form of electric transport is not a good idea.” An exaggeration. But the problem is the motivation for implementing them. The governments are so decadent they use the people’s money for “well-meaning virtuous intentions,” not practical reasons. People entrusted with authority are corrupt, pursuing their own personal goals.

      But they keep winning elections . . . .

  5. 2hmp permalink
    October 24, 2021 11:35 am

    Overheated lithium battery fires can occur when not being charged,

  6. Harry Passfield permalink
    October 24, 2021 11:48 am

    Maybe the Germans could lend the UK the buses to provide transport for all the bigwigs at Cop26. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind travelling in them once they’ve been made aware of the problems….

  7. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    October 24, 2021 11:49 am

    The switch to ‘electric’ ( coal fired ) transport going well, then?

  8. Mad Mike permalink
    October 24, 2021 11:55 am

    I was talking to a guy yesterday and coincidentally he was with a project to wrap stuff round an electric bus and drive it to Glasgow for COP26. It was to publicise insulation for your home.

    It’s starting off from Kent I believe so I’ll watch it’s progress with interest. I hope all that insulation doesn’t cause the batteries to overheat……Bang.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 25, 2021 1:30 pm

      Leaving it late to get there in time.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      October 26, 2021 2:34 pm

      Reminds me of a few years ago in South Africa, when there was an “electric car rally” from Pretoria to Cape Town. The organisers had to build a whole load of charging points on the route, and most of the cars didn’t last more than a couple of days. In a normal IC car, the route (avoiding the semi-desert Karoo) would have taken two or three days. Out of (I think) 20 starters, about FOUR EVs finished the route in nearly three weeks. The publicity shut down quickly once the actual figures started to appear!

  9. October 24, 2021 1:27 pm

    A fire here would keep the local brigades busy…

    UK’s largest bus depot can charge electric buses in just four hours in national first

    Glasgow’s Caledonia bus depot has reached a key milestone in its green transformation plans with the installation of 11 advanced rapid 150kW dual cable charging units. This first phase of work has been completed ahead of a new batch of 22 electric buses arriving at the depot ahead of COP26, and marks a significant step forward in First Bus’ plans to have a zero-emission fleet by 2035.

    With phased completion for the remainder of the work scheduled to take place across the next 12 months, the depot has been designed to accommodate and charge up to 300 EV buses on site – and will see the introduction of 150 electric buses over the next 18 months.

    https://www.firstbus.co.uk/greater-glasgow/news-and-service-updates/news/uk%E2%80%99s-largest-bus-depot-can-charge-electric-buses-just

    • Andrew Mark Harding permalink
      October 24, 2021 2:38 pm

      I can fill my 80 litre petrol tank in about 3 minutes, and the car is highly unlikely to catch fire, plus it is 18 years old!

  10. David Wojick permalink
    October 24, 2021 1:31 pm

    Too many fires to be a coincidence. Either batteries or systematic arson.

  11. cookers52 permalink
    October 24, 2021 1:31 pm

    I have a Toyota self charging hybrid car built in Derbyshire, it does everything you would want from a car, and it didn’t cost much more than an equivalent petrol only car. Running costs much the same.

    Paul is proud of his electric assisted pedal cycle, which seems to suit his needs very well (lightweight is my only comment!).

    But I had a lot to do with power batteries in my professional career and the conclusion I reached on their suitability and reliability was they were always problematic.

    • David Wojick permalink
      October 24, 2021 1:35 pm

      Ironic the chemical hating greens opt for huge amounts of chemical energy.

    • October 24, 2021 4:40 pm

      The “running costs are about the same” is a strange conclusion, as if you took the same car, and removed the battery and electric motor weight and the energy losses on recharging the battery, wouldn’t the petrol engine be even more efficient, and the car cost less?

  12. October 24, 2021 1:45 pm

    Wonder if the buses etc can be insured ?

    • Doyglas Dragonfly permalink
      October 24, 2021 4:36 pm

      Well I was wondering if it might be an insurance job ..?
      But mobile phones have been known to overheat and catch fire.
      Some escooters are doing it.
      Trying to recharge these things too quickly is not a wise idea.
      Another issue when evehicles are in use is to ensure the wiring is in good repair and it cannot earth out.
      Rapid discharge of a 1000w battery = fire and damage. In my case it was put out by throwing lots of soil onto it.
      The bike was good, it was the rider who was at fault.
      Anything bigger than a bike other than milk floats surely it’s ICE power ?

  13. Patsy Lacey permalink
    October 24, 2021 2:00 pm

    I thought Glasgow had insufficient charging points for all the electric cars they were intending to use during COP26 never mind buses. Apparently they were intending to ship in generators running on waste oil.
    If the trains do go on strike there will be upwards of 20K people trying to get to the Scottish event campus form far flung accommodation. Looks as if it will be a world beating success story.

  14. Andrew Mark Harding permalink
    October 24, 2021 2:59 pm

    I listen to BBC Radio 2 during the day they have 1/2 hourly traffic reports during the working week informing motorists about road closures due to accidents, lorries having a wheel change etc.

    What is very, very notable is that the number of vehicle fires have increased substantially in the last few months. Could that be due to the popularity of EV’s? I think so!

    When I worked I drove 18,000 miles a year in NE England. I passed my driving test in 1973, in all that time, I have only ever seen one car catch fire that was in Spain 20 years ago.

  15. cookers52 permalink
    October 24, 2021 4:34 pm

    Petrol and diesel vehicles catch on fire frequently, should we be concerned?

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      October 24, 2021 6:06 pm

      Most vehicle fires are caused by electrical faults. Fires can start after an accident due to fuel spillage, although diesel is quite tricky to ignite. At one time brake fluid was inflammable, I assume that is no longer the case.

      Unlike AMH above I’ve seen several vehicle fires over the years. My view is that they increased incidents are due in part to the increased use of electrical components in cars. Windows, mirrors, daylight running lights, electrical power steering, automatic rain detecting wipers to name a few.

    • markl permalink
      October 24, 2021 6:06 pm

      Not since the fires are easily controlled and don’t self combust. Are you trying to make a point?

  16. October 24, 2021 4:35 pm

    “unresolved” – how convenient! Fay’s the probability that they were all caused by charging EVs.

  17. markl permalink
    October 24, 2021 6:03 pm

    We will probably solve the volatility of LiIon batteries, or replace them with something more suitable, but shouldn’t we have done that before mandating their use?

  18. Joe Public permalink
    October 24, 2021 10:37 pm

    It’s not only electric buses / bus-chargers which are prone to conflagrating.

    Two years ago:

    “The nascent all-electric MotoE championship has had its whole roster of Energica Ego Corsa bikes destroyed by an overnight fire.

    The MotoE field was in Jerez for three days of pre-season testing, and all 18 bikes that had taken to the track for the opening day on Wednesday were burned.

    The fire is thought to have began around 12.15am local time, completely engulfing the MotoE paddock structure that hosted the Ego Corsa machines.

    “A fire in the newly-built E-paddock has destroyed the majority of material for the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup,” a statement from the organisers read.”

    https://www.motorsport.com/motoe/news/jerez-fire-bikes-destroyed/4352249/

  19. Douglas Dragonfly permalink
    October 25, 2021 7:20 am

    Off topic.
    London ‘s mayor, Khan, wants to bring in an Ultra Low Emissions Zone that covers all of the city inside of the north and south ring roads.
    For residents too. Many other cities around the country will be following these developments.
    The cost of getting about may increase substantially.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 25, 2021 1:36 pm

      The Two-Bob Chancer HAS extended the ULEZ. I heard the moron had ideas of taking out to the M25 which still leaves me outside but I do travel inside it at times. Good news there is that he does not have the authority beyond Greater London but extending that far would affect me.

  20. Jonamor permalink
    October 25, 2021 7:30 pm

    Shenzhen are currently running a fleet of 16000 electric busses and have been for some time. BYD make them. Are these German problem busses made in Germany? If so ..tough!

    • Douglas Dragonfly permalink
      October 26, 2021 7:53 am

      Yes it makes you wonder what is going on with these buses in Germany.
      Maybe as suggested above it is arson.
      If not then lessons need to be learnt quickly since worthless politicians are encouraging their use, e.g. London.
      ‘Naive is an understatement. Risk of electric vehicle fires is completely unaddressed.’
      German safety regulator Heinrich Duepmann said.
      Sales of e- vehicles are increasing so we must understand them better.
      Whilst burning lithium-ion batteries emit toxic quantities of fluoride gas.
      All this requires consideration and good planning if tax payers money is to be spent installing charging points around the country.
      Plus of course, how is enough electricity going to be generated ?

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