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Energica Releases Q&A With Its Chief Technical Officer to Address Jerez Fire Concerns

As we understand it, the intense fire at Jerez last week that destroyed MotoE race bikes and equipment was not the result of “thermal runaway” involving batteries in the motorcycles, but instead resulted from a short circuit within battery chargers on-site, which were not connected to any of the 18 motorcycles in the paddock at the time. Nevertheless, Energica, manufacturer of the race bikes, wanted to address any concerns regarding the safety of its motorcycles by releasing the following Q&A with its Chief Technical Officer, Giampiero Testoni.

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 EV 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 is the actual risk of fire of an electric vehicle in comparison with endothermic-powered vehicles?

As for every vehicle, whether electric or endothermic, there is always a risk. An important thing to know is that fuel contains a much higher amount of energy compared to batteries.

Is thermal runaway an actual risk for an Energica motorcycle?

Thermal runaway is a risk that is present in every battery, not only in vehicles but also smartphones, for example. We have taken all safety measures to make sure the battery does not reach this condition – and we haven’t experienced a single case of thermal runaway in ten years.

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.

How does the charging process work?

The charging process – both on track and on the road – follows the CCS standard, which a certified and homologated international standard of automotive derivation. In the two-wheeled world, we are the only manufacturer that has adopted this standard on their vehicles, as it is a very complicated and expensive protocol – but also very safe. This protocol is adopted by all the car manufacturers, as well as by the main global institutions. The CCS standard manages the communication between station and vehicle, and starts the charging process. In case of malfunction, the process is immediately stopped.

What happens when the charging process is completed?

Once charging is completed, the battery contactors open up and so there is no more tension. Once again, during all the charging process the battery temperature cells are being monitored and will not exceed a given threshold.

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.

What are the duties of the Energica team within the E-paddock?

We assist the team technicians for any need, for example in case of a crash. We provide answers and clarification to questions and alleviate doubts on the electronic side of the bike. We are always available for any matter, always and only with regards to the motorcycles.

What is Energica doing now in order to produce the amount of motorcycles needed for the competition to take place?

The morning after the accident we were already hard at work to make sure the championship can take place. Obviously, this is a very significant effort for Energica, but we’re aware of our capabilities and we’re working closely with our suppliers and with sponsors Dorna and Enel X to ensure that the series can make its official debut as soon as possible. We strongly believe in this project and we’re both proud and happy to be an integral part of it. We committed to MotoE from day one and recent happenings have not undermined in any way our faith in the strength and importance of the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup.

What are the safety measures in place on the Energica Ego Corsa and planned by MotoE to minimise the likeliness of an accident?

We have a high standard BMS and since 10 years we are working on EVs.We had no issue so far both on racing and on street vehicles. There’s also a tyre monitoring system in case of puncture (first time in racing), the pit-lane buzzer for incoming motorbikes and the blinking lights at the dashboard that tells you if the bike is on.

What are the safety measures to minimise the consequences of an accident?

There is a system in place that automatically powers the bike off when tilting, and there’s also a side light that notifies of a possible short cut telling the marshals and the riders if the bike can be picked up or not). Dorna has also reproduced a battery fire to better assess how to extinguish a fire coming from a single bike. Irta/Dorna are also designing a specific intervention vehicle that will be ready for the first race.

As an important part of the Championship, Energica is of course ready to sit down with the other parties involved, to learn about the Jerez incident to come back with a safer and stronger global package.


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34 Comments

  1. Hot Dog says:

    Something doesn’t smell right here.

  2. Mikey says:

    Well according to Energica, the problem wasn’t with their product rather with a short circuit of an unnamed and unconnected charger.
    If you say so but I’d like to hear from an official source to see if the two stories match up.
    We’ve had two Boeing airliners crash six months apart and Boeing is only now coming around to admitting some fault.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Cites police report identifying source of fire:://www.crash.net/motogp/news/915635/1/motoe-confirms-cause-jerez-paddock-fire.

      • Provologna says:

        Sorry, pure fail. That link comprises no photo copy of a cell in an official government report identifying the source of the fire.

        I have filled out thousands of such reports. “Short circuit” is too non-specific for most such reports. In my experience such report would be returned, demanding more specific cause/source. A more acceptable source of ignition is more precise, a specific single individual internal component part that failed, subsequently causing (possibly) multiple down stream failures and a subsequent ignition. You don’t have to be fire technician to know that “short circuit” is vague and without concrete definition. Specifically and exactly what the hell “shorted?” What if any was the AC or DC power source?

        This questions are so simple it seems to confirm, in my mind, the industry wants to keep it hidden. There’s only one good reason why.

        Anyone taking this on “face value” is naïve or worse. With all due respect, that includes our intrepid reporter of this blog.

        Demand a photo copy of the fire report. Cease re-typing the self serving reports of the industry vendors protecting their financial behinds.

        • Dave says:

          This happened in Spain, not the US. For all we know, there is an investigation still ongoing, and we don’t have any idea what forms they do or don’t use. Having witnessed the handling of incidents in other sports by the Spanish, it isn’t at all far fetched that their government would align with national brands and interests, though (look up “operation Puerto”).

        • Provologna says:

          From the link: “Local police are still concluding their investigation into the fire but have announced the fire was caused by a short circuit which ignited a high-density battery that is part of the high-performance charger used in MotoE. The source of the short circuit is yet to be confirmed.”

          Note: there is no quote attributed to a police official. The text is pure unadulterated paraphrase and nothing else.

          The text contradicts itself. How, exactly, can one scientifically determine “X” (alleged “short circuit”) “caused” a fire, when “X” is unknown (“yet to be confirmed”). Translated literally: Something “yet to be determined” caused a fire. How exactly can a short circuit be simultaneously “identified” and “yet to be determined.” It can’t.

          Sorry, this is still more fail. Tell me the last time you heard in the USA the fire or police identify the cause of a fire when the source is “yet to be determined.”

          The source is identified by describing it physically, not it’s effect. An effect is action or activity, the cause is a physical object that first reached ignition temperature.

          The effect remains unknown and unknowable till the source is identified. Pure BS, sorry.

          • Bob K says:

            I’m in agreement with you. Which is it? Determined or yet to be determined?
            .
            A short circuit within the charger should not have burnt the place down. At the most, a breaker on the panel should have flipped and all would be well..
            .
            I don’t know how many times over the years one of our 480V mills has tripped a breaker from using all the axis at the same time and on tougher than usual materials requiring max HP. Breaker trips. That’s it.

  3. Provologna says:

    This is very simple. Barring investigation by Fire Dept. for arson, the FD either finished or did not finish the report, with a line indicating cause. In the USA, it’s an “NFIRS” report (National Fire Incident Reporting System).

    Note to Energica: Publish a copy of the report indicating cause, or all bets off. Barring such photo copy, there’s every reason to believe Energica only lies Re. the cause of the fire, period.

    If arson is suspect, no report till the arson division is done with their investigation.

    • Provologna says:

      Sorry, something took me away from the keyboard before finishing my post. Anyone reading this, including and especially Dirck, can confirm what I just typed above with one brief call to your local FD. Barring a civil trial w/legal judgement contradicting it, there is sum total one and only one source for the legal cause (or source) for any fire, that being (in the US) a box or cell on the NFIRS report.

      (One of the national changes to fire reporting post 9-11 in the US was to require fire departments to employ NFIRS, the reason being to nationally track trends and/or patterns in fires that might correlate to terrorist activity.)

      Till Dirck or anyone else reads the official cause determined by independent professional, I respectfully suggest to post about one’s “understanding” of the cause is pure speculation and must be described as such. Certainly it’s bad form to be posting Energica’s report of the cause without clarifying how self serving may be Energica’s report unless it is accompanied by a photo copy of the official independent fire report showing the exact cause.

      In an NFIRS report, the cell is filled with an alpha-numeric code with correlates to specific text describing the cause, with another cell with the reporter’s narrative if he/she decides to use it.

      Short version: if no photo copy of official fire report cause, the best option is to consider all Energica statements damage control and nothing else.

      If the official cause is “short circuit within battery charger” it could be much more specific, such as the actual component that short circuited, and what caused it to short circuit.

      I would certainly presume all battery chargers require AC mains source, 230V-50 Hz in the EU and OZ except GB is 115V (can’t recall CPS).

      • Dave says:

        As I’m reading it, the indication that the fire was caused by chargers did not come from Energica. Maybe Dirk can clarify this.

        As for the FD investigation, this happened in Spain and Energica presumably doesn’t own the facility that this occurred in so the custody of these materials isn’t very clear.

        I view the Q&A as a positive. I can’t imagine what else they should have done.

        • Provologna says:

          In the USA, fire reports are public information, and for good cause. The only exception is ongoing arson investigation because of the criminal aspect. Someone from the source nation has to report if it’s different there.

          You don’t have to imagine anything. A photo copy of the official fire report is required. Any fire or police official is bound by criminal law to tell the truth and nothing else. Energica has a wide swath to mis-state the truth. A marketing term called “fluff” gives them cover.

          Considering everything except the fire report is potentially tainted with financial interest, the public must ignore it when it comes to the cause of the fire.

          All someone in the motorcycle industry has to do is buy a copy of the report, estimate $25 maximum.

          BTW, here’s another tidbit. For a fire of this magnitude, IMO the official report is still likely incomplete. More evidence that Energica is talking out their back side. Energica probably can not post a photo copy of the report because no such report yet exists.

          • Bob K says:

            I’d imagine Dorna wouldn’t allow us to see everything you’d want to know in the name of preventing PR nightmares regarding the moto-E series and e-bikes in general.
            .
            While I don’t believe Energica needed to provide their own chargers, they do seem to provide the standard onboard charger. A fast charger is likely something they don’t even make. There’s already manufacturers in that space.

            However, I’d hope they had a say in who that manufacturer is and approved it for use. But I don’t know that it should matter in the end. I’d hope that any fast charging station all over the world available to the public would be safe enough to use.

      • TSwiss says:

        Thank you for your informative and insightful posts. It’s good to have someone advocating for a fact-based explanation of events.

  4. Grover says:

    I like ICE.

  5. Leroy says:

    When news breaks, we fix it.

    • Jabe says:

      Agreed, sounds a lot like propaganda to me, but would you expect anything less in such a matter?

      I was amused by Testoni’s statement when addressing the risk of fire with electric vehicles, in part, “fuel contains a much higher amount of energy compared to batteries”. No kidding. That’s why EV’s are not in my future until they become forced upon me.

      I’m not knocking on people who like it, good for you, I’m happy for you. Me personally, I love the sound and feel of an ICE. I love working on them and learning the technology and complexity of these machines. A battery is about as exciting as a toilet seat.

      And yes, ICE vehicles do self combust. I worked with a guy who’s house burnt down when his Buick decided to ignite itself in the garage. Ask any fireman, it’s not common, but not unheard of. And another yes, the Buick went poof because of an electrical issue.

      • Bob K says:

        Re: your friend’s Buick. Yes, he may have had an electrical issue, like maybe a wire that had been rubbed bare and could spark if it sagged onto a piece of metal and went to ground. But there needed to also be a medium for the spark to act on.

        In that case, perhaps he also had a fuel leak? And if that’s the case I’d be inclined to believe leaky fuel landed on a hot engine and caught fire.

        There’s a lot more to this story. Even a bare wire will do absolutely nothing even if it touches ground if no electricity is allowed to flow. Modern cars don’t distribute electricity to the whole car until the relays allow it after the ignition is turned to on. Many things don’t work at all until the engine is running. The only thing “live” is the battery itself while it’s sitting there doing nothing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It would have burned down

  7. Ralph W. says:

    Reading this made me feel like I was hearing propaganda from a leader of a rogue nation. It all sounds too perfect. How much of it is actually the truth? Was the fire caused by the chargers or the batteries? They wouldn’t tell us if it looked bad for them. I have little faith in electronic devices. Most of them fail. Some last for years and others fail when new. Despite the electronic safety systems built into the batteries and chargers the danger of a catastrophic fire still exists. As with any electronic device, the risk of failure increases with age. Like Bob K said, “Gotta say, I never, ever worry about my MCs (ICE bikes) self-combusting just sitting still.”

  8. falcodoug says:

    What if there were good bikes in there?

  9. Bob K says:

    Great, so it’s possible a charging station can cause a fire. Perfect. My gas hot water heater is in my garage. Just what I need. Gotta say, I never, ever worry about my MCs self-combusting just sitting still.

  10. TwinDog says:

    Go nuclear. 18,000 lbs of torque in a 230 pound motorcycle. Power-to-weight quite high.

  11. Tom R says:

    So it was battery charging equipment, not the actual batteries, that caused the fire. Either way, the place still burned to the ground…and without the help of fossil fuel.

    • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

      Lots of building burn down without the help of fossil fuel. Can you imagine what would have happened had this building been full of race fuel in containers?

      • Tom R says:

        The same thing?

      • Bart says:

        Probably nothing would have happened because ICE fuel doesn’t need huge cartloads of lithium batteries/chargers in the garage that started this fire.

        • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

          Maybe, because fumes from ICE fuel only need a small spark to start fires. If it was a charger that started this fire, it could more easily start a liquid fuel fire, than a battery fire. A battery fire has to start within the battery, this incident sounds like an external problem started the blaze which had nothing to do with the batteries. So the batteries was not the problem. Far more fires are started from ICE vehicles than ever were from battery vehicles.

          • Bob K says:

            Perhaps they need explosion proof electrical boxes and line conditioners to provide clean power to the chargers.

            “Far more fires are started from ICE vehicles than ever were from battery vehicles.”

            Not enough data yet. E-vehicles are still young and not in equal numbers yet to draw comparisons. Give it time.