FIRE DANGER! German cities start taking electric buses out of service


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Because electric buses catch fire easily, many German cities are taking the expensive electric buses out of service. 

Lower Saxony is right at the forefront when it comes to electric bus transport. In June, however, a major fire broke out in a bus depot in Hanover in the Mittelfeld district, in which the fire destroyed nine vehicles belonging to the Üstra transport company. Cause: The battery of an electric bus had caught fire. The city of Hanover then took the electric fleet out of service for the time being. This is not only the case in Hanover, it is more and more common for cities to remove electric vehicles from the timetable. The reasons can often be traced back to one common cause: fire protection.

Electric buses are being taken out of service in German cities

▶ After an electric bus was allegedly responsible for a major fire in a Stuttgart bus depot, the transport company shut down the buses for the time being. 25 vehicles were destroyed in the fire. Other transport companies have also taken action.

▶ The Munich transport company also took eight electric buses out of service. The measure should apply until the cause of the fire has been finally clarified.

▶ In Regensburg you are a little further on. There, too, the same type of electric buses were taken off the grid as a precautionary measure as in the fire in Stuttgart. After discussions and an analysis with the manufacturer, the Regensburg e-buses have been in use again since Tuesday. Electric buses are also on the road in the Verden district.

Fire hazard with electric buses: The reason is the batteries – they can reach up to 1,000 degrees

But why do cities have so many problems with electric buses? “Electric buses are increasingly driving on German roads. What has been missing so far, however, are consistent safety concepts. A particular danger is the “thermal runaway”. The lithium-ion batteries release energy in an uncontrolled manner.

The cause could be thermal, mechanical or electrical stress. The batteries reach temperatures of around 1000 degrees, but neighboring cells could go into a critical state at 80 to 100 degrees. For the same reason, electric cars keep catching fire. The first e-cars are only allowed to park at a distance of 15 meters due to the risk of fire . The manufacturer General Motors, to which Opel also belongs, has therefore just recalled models that were used as electric patrol cars in Hamburg.

Electric buses: Numerous fire incidents in Germany

It is not the first fire incident involving an electric bus. There was already a fire at an e-bus manufacturer in Salzgitter in 2017, a vehicle in Burghausen (Altötting district) in 2019, and in Thuringia in 2020. In March 2021, a vehicle at EvoBus in Mannheim was on fire. In two devastating bus depot fires in Hanover and Düsseldorf this year, there is at least one suspicion that an electric vehicle was the trigger. Even if that was not the case: The battery fires, which are very difficult and can only be extinguished with enormous amounts of water and involve a very expensive insurance claim. The most recent depot fires have made this clear.

What could happen if electric buses catch fire?

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