MotoE: Energica address fire risks of electric bikes

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MotoE one-make manufacturer Energica have moved to address consumers fears in the wake of last week’s disastrous fire in the series’ paddock in Jerez, explaining the limited risks of fire that come from their machines. Losing all 18 machines developed for the series in the catastrophic blaze, preliminary results from the ongoing investigation show that the Italian manufacturer’s’ bikes weren’t responsible for the fire, which instead broke out in a charging unit.

However, the lithium polymer batteries used to power their Energica Ego bike do present a fire hazard and require modified firefighting procedures, and undoubtedly contributed to worsening the blaze. Energica say despite remaining proud of their safety record after ten years of production, they will work with series bosses to learn from the fire and improve safety measures even more in the future as they continue to learn and develop.

What is the risk of fire for an Energica vehicle?

The tests we perform on our vehicles are inherited from the tests carried out on road vehicles throughout the years, which respect the safety standards for appropriate use, in every riding situation. Not a single one of our clients has experienced an issue of this sort and in ten years of activity in the electric vehicle industry we have never had a single safety issue, not even in Jerez. We are therefore confident and not worried regarding the safety level of our vehicles, both on the road and on the track. 

What are the safety measures Energica adopted to avoid such a situation developing on the motorcycle?

There are several safety devices within the battery pack and the vehicle itself to prevent dangerous situations. The battery is monitored for both temperature and tension, so that during the charging process the electronic management system of the vehicle will not allow the vehicle to reach high temperatures, which could cause damage to the battery and/or fire (or thermal runaway). During the actual riding, if the battery reaches a specific temperature the amount of power available to the vehicle is reduced and therefore the power absorption from the battery, which ensures the risk of thermal runaway is kept at bay.

Have the bikes ever shown any sign of overheating?

The racing bike has always stayed within the range of use we had tested for a whole year, with thousands of kms performed by our test riders on various tracks under different weather conditions covering as well the high air temperature of the summer. After all, the racing bike has inherited the safety standards set for our road vehicles, which are homologated and certified in EU and USA – and have hundreds of thousands of kms of testing done prior and throughout. Safety has always been the number one priority for us. In addition to all this, further tests to the racing battery have been carried out with IRTA to evaluate the strength and resilience of the battery pack: those tests were so extreme that they’re not even requested for road vehicles. All tests were passed in an excellent way and the results went beyond anyone’s expectations, including ours. 

What type of tests have been performed to guarantee the integrity of the battery pack of the racing motorcycle in case of a crash? What were the results?

We performed several tests for the mechanical strength of the battery case and its impact resistance when hit by a blunt heavy object. The results were beyond our expectations and beyond any test performed to fuel tanks of racing vehicles.

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer