A Converted Plug-in Prius Catches on Fire in South Carolina ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: A Converted Plug-in Prius Catches on Fire in South Carolina

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Converted Plug-in Prius Catches on Fire in South Carolina

A converted plug-in Prius was destroyed by an 'internal fire that occured during a routine drive.' The PHEV was owned by Central Electric Power Cooperative in Columbia, SC and the hybrid had a Hybrids-Plus PHEV15 conversion kit.

The fire started in the back seat and the driver quickly exited. There was a 'subsequent explosion.' According to ABG, the 'fire may have been triggered by something related to the on-board battery charger and the car had previously experienced some mechanical issues related to that.'

This is bad news for those companies that are trying to develop a conversion kit for hybrids. While car fires are nothing new, there is a special concern for plug-in vehicles. The plug-in industry is in a delicate place right now. If a plug-in car from a major player (say GM or Toyota, which this wasn't) caught on fire, it could do irreparable damage to the future of plug-ins.

But the good news (other than no one was hurt) is it wasn't the battery that overheated, but the charger.

It's stories like this that should be at the forefront of GM development of the Volt. I was happy when I heard that Toyota had decided to slow down (a bit) in their development of a plug-in. From all reports, GM is pushing the Volt hard to finish on time. While I'm quite sure they are being careful with all the electrical systems, one short circuit could kill the marketplace before it has a chance to grow.

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Anonymous said...

OMG...an experimental product gone bad...WHAT WILL WE DO???? RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!

Mike said...

That's not what I was hoping to convey here. Clearly car fires happen, but don't tell me if one of the first 100 Volts on the road catches fire, the plug-in industry won't be set back by five years.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree it would be set back. As you'll note from this piece, the battery pack was not actually being used, but the fuel cells. I also think it's important that we acknowledge faulty wiring has now been blamed for this.

A regular car fire can be caused in a variety of different ways. Gas line, faulty wiring - heck, I even saw a car catch on fire in Florida due to the heat. Let's not embellish this incident because some clowns were experiementing...

Mike said...

Again, I'm not trying to say the plug-in industry has been damaged with this fire. It was, as you said, a problem with the charger, not the battery.

What I am trying to say is 'if this happens' to a 'GM or Toyota' vehicle, which is factory made, like the Volt, it would have serious consequences to the whole plug-in movement.

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