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BYD taxi explosion in Shenzhen apparently not caused by faulty battery

Posted: 08/6/2012 5:44 pm

Many in Shenzhen have been nervous to take the new BYD electric taxis that are buzzing around town since a fatal accident in May.

On May 27, a speeding GT-R slammed into an e6-model electric taxi on Binhai Dadao in Shenzhen.  The taxi burst into flames, incinerating the two passengers and the driver. Suspicions were raised almost immediately that the battery inside the vehicle may have been faulty, with a representative from BYD going as far to say that there’s a “big chance” that leakage occurred.  That raised all kinds of questions, not the least of which was this: are BYD’s electric taxis – and electric cars in general – safe?

Well, we finally have an answer.  A report concludes that there was a short circuit inside the vehicle which caused the explosion, and not a leaking battery.  From the Shenzhen Daily:

“Within three to five seconds, the e6 battery, electric car was hit from behind by the Nissan GT-R sports car and then spun across three lanes of traffic, (before) the already damaged back end of the taxi slammed into a tree with such force that the tree sliced the taxi open for about a meter, from the rear bumper all the way through the rear seats,” Wu Zhixin, head of the expert panel and also deputy director of China Automobile Technology and Research Center, said at a news conference at Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center on Friday.

The impact compressed batteries inside the vehicle and caused a short circuit that started a fire inside the taxi.

“If the accident happened to a gas-powered taxi, the result might have been even more serious because gas-powered taxis are generally lighter than electric vehicles,” Wu said.

The Shenzhen Daily notes not everybody is convinced by the result, with some saying that it is “unacceptable”.  The families of those who died are also unhappy that BYD has never apologized for what happened.

As for the safety of electronic vehicles, it appears the public believes BYD will have problems no matter what caused the crash:

In an online survey that drew 4,349 respondents after the report’s release, 1,834 of the respondents said they would choose electric taxis to avoid the 2-yuan (US$0.32) fuel surcharge, while another 1,992 said they’d choose gas-powered taxis instead, for safety concerns because they didn’t trust the investigation’s result. The remaining 523 respondents said they’d ride in electric- or gas-powered taxis, because they didn’t believe such misfortune would happen to them.

It’s worth noting that senior executives and other large shareholders have dumped US$135 million in BYD shares from July 2 to August 1 this year.

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