A converted Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owned by Central Electric Power Cooperative in Columbia, SC, was destroyed by an internal fire on 7 June. The fire occurred during a routine drive, according to a report on the website of the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), a service of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
There were no injuries. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
According to the CRN report, the vehicle, which had no data logger installed, had previously experienced minor mechanical issues relating to the charger.
The upholstery in the back seat caught on fire during routine highway driving. The driver pulled over, exited the car, and there was a subsequent explosion. The lithium-ion battery pack was damaged but remained largely intact and functioning.
CRN has employed Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation (ETEC) of Phoenix, AZ, to perform an initial investigation on the PHEV. The firm will work to determine the cause of the fire and make recommendations if more specialized forensics experts are needed to complete the investigation.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Ric Fulop, A123System’s co-founder and vice president of business development, said that the preliminary finding was that the cells didn’t cause the incident. Carl Lawrence, CEO of Hybrids Plus in Boulder, Colorado, said the fire may have resulted from a wiring flaw when Hybrids Plus assembled the cells into a battery.