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Huge Jerez Fire Destroys MotoE Bikes and Equipment; Opening Race Cancelled

The first day of testing in 2019 for the MotoE championship had been completed, and the bikes parked in the paddock at Jerez, when an extremely intense fire erupted and consumed many of the race bikes and important support equipment (see photos). The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

This has led to the cancellation of the season-opener scheduled at Jerez for the weekend of May 3 through 5. A Dorna statement indicates that “no motorcycles were charging at the time” the fire broke out, but the cause of the fire is still unknown. A revised 2019 MotoE calendar will be announced in “due course” … so we should see racing this year in the new MotoE category.

The intensity of the fire that destroyed the bikes and equipment highlights a reality when dealing with lithium ion batteries and fires. You can read a more detailed explanation on the GPOne site, but electrical fires involving the decomposition of lithium, in essence, cannot be fought with water … which will only exacerbate the fire. According to the GPOne article, fire fighters in California are trained to simply contain an electrical fire, and allow the fire to burn itself out. The burning of a lithium ion battery also releases toxic gasses, according to GPOne.

The most common cause of an electric vehicle fire is mechanical impact, i.e., a crash. Looks like the MotoE organizers need to plan for some contingencies that ICE race series need not be concerned with.


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50 Comments

  1. Dirty Bob says:

    A power source can be designed to be safe. Batteries can include circuitry that drains off voltage and shuts down the power source. Processors, resistors, and capacitors can do this safely. Manufacturers are too cheap to make lithium ion batteries safe. However we don’t know the cause of this fire yet, it may not be a battery.

    • guu says:

      How do you drain off voltage (actually energy)? Its converted it to heat. Big energy = big heat. The whole point of batteries is to hold as much energy as possible.

  2. Ronald says:

    Terrible situation for the series. I saw a great TV show several months ago about a new advance in battery construction. They demonstrated what happens when a lithium ion battery gets shorted by a nail. It is spectacular and immediate fireworks. The energy in the battery tries to release all at once. I also learned that a new battery style is being developed that cannot short because the dielectric is a type of plastic, not metal. That also allows a more pure lithium composition that will double the power output. The inventor drove several several nails through the new battery it did not short and explode. In fact, I believe the battery still worked. Good stuff coming our way in the near future.

  3. CrazyJoe says:

    If I’m not mistaken the chemical agent sodium chloride in class D fire extinguishers can be hamful. The gasses coming off can lithium fire are worse. And if you do manage to put out the fire you have to consider reflash. Best to let it burn.

  4. Mr.D says:

    This is a sad disaster, and although not a big surprise, I’m pretty sure it won’t harm the E-toy industry.
    Things like this will just help drive the push for better batteries. Countless nerds are out there working on super capacitors, lithium air, and John Goodenough’s latest ideas just to name a few. When one or more of these make it to the real world, double or triple the power storage would make a lot of things way more practical/feasible. Look at the Zero fs/r, that thing would be insane 300 pound lighter. Top shelf “hooligan” bike. We are looking at a new era of different machines, that make it easier to focus on the road, and/or smell the roses. One the bright side, we can still crunch gears, balance carbs, and listen to what our symbiotic mechanical friend tells us. As for the racing, are not some of the most exciting things in racing the blown shifts, going deep into redline for a little more, then blowing up and/or winning because of that gamble? ICE bikes will be around all of our lifetimes (of this I am grateful), but we should probably accept and welcome our new little sub-culture the e-bike crowd. (unless they are liberal hipsters…we are not quite ready to accept them yet. Just say no to e-groms!)jk

  5. Anonymous says:

    Halon.

  6. crazyjoe says:

    Irony of ironies when the last piece was about electric bikes being the next big thing. Do public garages have to be retro fitted with chemical sprinkling systems? Have the codes been written yet to suppress Li ion EV fires? Are fire departments still scared of the things?

    • Bob K says:

      Good questions.
      .
      I have a friend who lost his whole house before Xmas 10 years ago due to a cell phone fine. Not sure of the battery chemistry, but that was the source. The memory is enough to make me want a safety net for my garage if I went “e”.

  7. Grover says:

    Electric bikes are the hotbed of motorcycling at the moment.

  8. gpokluda says:

    Really glad to hear no one got hurt in the fire. As with any accident like this, the hardware can be replaced but the people cannot.

  9. ApriliaRST says:

    Electric bikes are hot right now.

  10. Dave says:

    It’s worth pointing out that referring to batteries as “lithium” in this and cases like this is the same as referring to gasoline as “oil”. There are tons of different lithium battery chemistries with varying degrees of power density and volatility. I’m *guessing* that e-race bikes use some versions of lithium-polymer (similar to what the R/C guys use) as they’re very powerful, but also more volatile. The chemistries used in regular consumer goods, like phones, power tools, laptops, are usually much more storage-safe.

    While this incident is unfortunate, it was an accident and nobody got hurt. To those who don’t believe fuel fires happen in racing, ask yourselves why they don’t do fueling pit stops in F1 anymore. Search “pit lane fire” on Youtube.

    • guu says:

      Also there have been bad battery fires even before e-bikes (not saying this was caused by batteries) in MotoGP and elsewhere . Starter cart batteries have burned. Small batteries on the bikes to run the electronics have burned. And they have burned bikes, garages, and trucks with them.

  11. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    I will always be leery of lithium ion batteries, in fact have never bought one for a motorcycle ( much lighter ) or even a yard tool. On balance though, a couple of realities. There are chemically several types of Li Batts, with slightly different functional characteristics. The operational use definitely demand a disciplined and aware operator. Many of the serious failures are due to miserable packaging designs, and there are no minor failures. Over all Li batteries MAY be getting better. On balance gasoline fuel vapor clouds can be the second most powerful over pressure bomb compared to a nuke and remember the Ford automobile ignition switch miserable design failures that caused so much grief and fires few years ago. The safest form of mechanical transport is the escalator, – – – forget that. We need speed !

  12. Buzz says:

    It’s not easy being green.

    • Bob K says:

      hehehe I wonder if the sub 30 crowd will get the reference.

      • Mr.D says:

        Bro please..that’s some sick epic Kermit right there, we know that! Actually we is more they, but my nephew fits that bunch and he got it…so not dated quite yet.

  13. T says:

    It’s a shame. E vehicles have no soul, you are not connected to the bike when you ride. I will never own one….two or four wheels. Give me the noise, smell, vibration of a good old fossil fuel burning vehicle any day!!!

    • Dave says:

      I think the opportunity of e-vehicles is to be much more connected to the vehicle. While I love my VFR, I am more and more aware that when I ride, especially “sport” ride, part of my concentration is consumed with simply operating the machine and when you think about it, We’re sitting on a small furnace that makes thousands of explosions per minute to make a thing spin, which then goes through transmissions that requires two levers to operate and to stop it, we have two further levers to operate.

      Once electric really comes in, all of that distraction is gone. Throttle, brake, that’s all. The ultimate riding experience to me is hands on the bars, mind on the lines. We’ll never get there with the explosion furnaces we’re currently riding.

      • paul says:

        I also own a VFR, I love it and I agree with T.

      • Ralph W. says:

        Disagree with you Dave. I love the complexity of riding an ICE bike. The more complex it is the more skill it requires and the more satisfaction it gives when you do it well. I won’t even buy an ICE bike with an auto transmission because they eliminate the need for some skills and I want total control of which gear it is in and when it changes. Less enthusiastic and less skilled riders will always prefer to make it less challenging. Maybe electric bikes will eventually take over and we will have no choice in the future, but that is really sad. Less skill = less thrill.

        • Bob K says:

          I’m with you Ralph. In order for me to feel connected, I need to shift gears myself based on my needs, not when the vehicle determines it is best. Same with operating the brakes. While I’ve owned ABS bikes with linked brakes that were damn good, I enjoy putting on the binders in my own front to rear ratios. A vehicle with no gears and does not require my attention span will never hold my attention. To me it’s not about just the ride, working the bike is part of that ride. I think if I were to have an automatic-bike I would want a foot shifter instead of 2 buttons on the control cluster. Same function in the end, just more satisfying because it operates like a manual, even without the clutch. And with an e-bike, I think I’d like at least 3 gears. Lower rpms consume less battery power than higher rpms even when the load is low.
          .
          I have a love/hate relationship with auto trannys in cars/trucks. I love that they multiply torque and that they absorb the power pulses of the engine which makes things last longer…less vibes. I hate that they downshift when I don’t feel they need to and that they never go into the gear I would prefer based on my needs. And I really hate the lag to down shift to accelerate hard and I especially hate the gear hunting in my 9 speed Jeep.

        • Dave says:

          To each their own. Good bikes last nearly forever, so even if e-bikes without transmissions take over next year, there will be an inventory of current, cutting edge ICE bikes to satisfy that need for decades to come.

  14. arrowrod says:

    Just a reminder to not leave your lithium battery charger on and walk away. Especially in your house. Supposedly fixed, maybe Motoe had old design batteries.

  15. Fastship says:

    Did Boeing make the batteries?

  16. Rhinestone Kawboy says:

    The fire may have had nothing to do with the bikes themselves. We’ll hopefully find out what the cause was. Shame.

    • Provologna says:

      The only thing about this fire that could be disconnected from the “bikes themselves” is the fire’s origin. The scope, spread, and intensity of the fire likely directly correlates to the bikes and their lithium ion power source.

      Spontaneous combustion of lithium ion batteries directly caused the crash of multiple cargo jets including at least one UPS 747. The cockpit conversations of that crash are harrowing. Certain Samsung phones were banned from airplanes for a certain period of time directly because of the phone’s fire risk.

    • Bart says:

      Rine, good guess!
      It’s looking like the batteries in the high performance charging system caught fire due to a short somewhere in the charging system. No bikes were connected to the chargers. Don’t know if the Chargers were connected to house power yet.

  17. Grover says:

    Not too surprising. I fly electric R/C planes and can tell you what happened to two people that I met in the sport: one has his shop burn down and the other lost a trailer full of R/C planes due to lithium-poly batteries. They can self-ignite if the voltage level drops too low. Doesn’t make a difference if they’re charging or not. The new lithium batteries have to be handled CAREFULLY. The more we get used to handling these lithium batteries the less accidents will happen.

  18. fred says:

    It’s been a while since a motorcycle paddock was burned to the ground because of a gasoline fire. Long enough that I cannot recall a single instance. There have been some nasty fires at auto tracks, but even those have been a long time ago.

    I can’t imagine that anybody is happy of the tremendous loss, whether they are a fan of ebikes or not.

    This was an unfortunate wake-up call, but the lessons learned may wind up saving lives in the future.

  19. carl says:

    Damn did Tesla build these bikes???

  20. Well as former Drone owner…my whole facility burned to the ground three years ago…the batteries burned a hole in the work bench, made from 1/8 steel plate. Sprinklers had no chance… if you are going to do this then you are going to have to have different plan.
    “Just Sayn’…”

  21. Hot Dog says:

    A up to code sprinkler system should’ve been able to contain this blaze. It was a new facility, wasn’t it? Somebody tell me it was sprinkled.

    • Chris says:

      You can’t use water to put out a lithium ion battery fire.

      It’s even mentioned in the article.

      • Provologna says:

        What? You expect posters to spend a few seconds reading an article before posting about it?

        /sarc off

        • Hot Dog says:

          A chemical suppression system, compounded with a water system, should’ve been used in this situation. I’ve been involved in a number of projects that has had this spec detailed. And you?

  22. Anonymous says:

    And not an intercourse was given.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Electric bike haters can hardly contain their joy right now.

  24. Jeremy says:

    This would have never happened with race gas!

    Seriously, though, what a bummer.