Print 66 comment(s) - last by jlips6.. on Jun 28 at 12:12 PM

Retrofitted Toyota Prius sets itself on fire

Hybrids seem to be all the rage these days from auto manufacturers. With gas prices passing the $4.00 a gallon mark, domestic and foreign manufacturers are looking for ways to bring more fuel-efficient vehicles to the consumer market.

One promising technology that is soon to hit production will come in the form of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEVs). New production vehicles from General Motors and Toyota will feature onboard battery packs which can be recharged via a standard household outlet. In the case of the Chevrolet Volt, the vehicle can travel 40 miles with a fully charged battery.

Although production models are still a few years away, that hasn’t stopped third-party manufacturers from retrofitting existing hybrid vehicles to accommodate plug-in hardware. DailyTech previously reported that Lithium Technology Corporation (LTC) retrofitted a Toyota Prius to incorporate both lithium-ion batteries and plug-in technology. Likewise, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies' Plug-In Hybrid Center sponsored a program last year to equip 100 Northern California households with plug-in Priuses.

Testing of the various Priuses retrofitted to accept plug-in modules have gone relatively smoothly -- until now. The Cooperative Research Network (CRN) reports that a Toyota Prius PHEV owned by Central Electric Power Cooperative (CEPC) and retrofitted with a Hybrids-Plus PHEV15 conversion kit exploded on June 7.

The Prius in question had previously been experiencing charger-related malfunctions, but was still allowed to operate in the test fleet. On its final voyage, the driver noticed that the back seat caught on fire -- the driver then quickly pulled over to the side of the road and was able to exit the vehicle. Shortly after the driver fled the vehicle, "there was a subsequent explosion" according to CRN.

There was little damage to the A123-manufactured lithium-ion battery pack which suggests that some other hybrid component could have been the cause of the fire and subsequent explosion -- this could be somewhat of a relief to many who still express reservations with regards to installing numerous lithium-ion cells in passenger vehicles.

Unfortunately, there was no data logger present on the Prius so it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the fire. Hopefully, the data gathered as the investigation goes forward will allow future PHEV auto manufacturers to provide us all with safe, reliable vehicles.

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And people always say that with hydrogen cars...
By JasonMick on 6/18/2008 3:10:57 PM , Rating: 5
You're strapped into a bomb. Gas tanks and especially lithium ion batteries are as bad or worse.

On a funny/sad note, how much must that tester's job suck.

"Here we have this badly malfunction car, with a large pack of highly flammable/explosive batteries -- go drive it until something fails!"

Hopefully he has some good life insurance O_o

By 67STANG on 6/18/2008 3:33:49 PM , Rating: 5
This just in... Ford is interested in this car. They say it has nothing to do with the rumors of bringing back the Pinto.

By Smartless on 6/18/2008 3:39:48 PM , Rating: 3
"Silence, I KILL YOU!" ~Achmed the Dead Terrorist

So wait if its plug-in, do they still have gas tanks?

By exanimas on 6/18/2008 11:00:23 PM , Rating: 4
The way you phrased that made it seem as if the car can only be operated while plugged in... Now I can't wait until they make a cordless model!

By Carter642 on 6/18/2008 4:08:15 PM , Rating: 5
Exactly like a bomb, except for the part about gas tanks and Li batteries exploding. Gasoline burns, gasoline VAPOR explodes. While Li batteries can explode, if vented properly they just tend to burn not to mention that they're the most heavily protected part of the car.

This isn't some hollywood style action movie explosion here!

There was an R8 prototype that "exploded" on the ring and no one is declaring it a bomb. This is really a non-story, a prototype vehicle burned up, it happens regularly.

By teldar on 6/18/2008 6:04:03 PM , Rating: 5
Damn you and your use of reason.

You should be contributing to being a rumor monger as all other peoples are.


By bigboxes on 6/18/2008 6:44:36 PM , Rating: 5
You are incorrect. I used to watch CHiPs when I was a kid and explosions were all too frequent (as well has car flips) so I should know.

By paydirt on 6/19/2008 10:28:10 AM , Rating: 2
boom boom, shake shake the room!

one lucky day..
By kattanna on 6/18/2008 3:19:39 PM , Rating: 2
can you imagine what the poor person thought when they looked in their rear view mirror to see the back seats on fire.. pull over, and shortly after exiting the vehicle, it explodes?


i say its time for that person to go get a lottery ticket with luck like that.

RE: one lucky day..
By SilthDraeth on 6/18/08, Rating: 0
RE: one lucky day..
By elpresidente2075 on 6/18/2008 4:14:15 PM , Rating: 5
I'm sure shortly after the explosion, a big truck drove by with some guys shooting various automatic weapons at the former driver. As the driver realizes this situation, he returns fire with his Desert Eagle, and despite the complete inaccuracy of the baddies, he hits the driver squarely between the eyeballs with his first shot. This sends the truck careening over the median into a gasoline truck, thus exploding the gasoline in the truck and the dynamite the guys had in the bed (they were gonna throw it at our hero)...

I think we have the beginnings of a pretty great action movie: Arnold Schwarzenegger in Hybrid Power

RE: one lucky day..
By kattanna on 6/18/2008 4:21:32 PM , Rating: 2
sadly.. that scene you just laid out sounds more exciting then some movies that have been released

RE: one lucky day..
By Darkefire on 6/18/2008 9:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
Go sell that sucker. Pitch it as a combination action flick and environmental message movie, and you'll have Hollywood execs salivating.

By MisterModder on 6/24/2008 11:22:58 AM , Rating: 2
This is why I'm hot.

RE: Word
By MisterModder on 6/24/2008 11:23:15 AM , Rating: 2
This is why

RE: Word
By MisterModder on 6/24/2008 11:23:43 AM , Rating: 2
This is Y

RE: Word
By MisterModder on 6/24/2008 11:24:12 AM , Rating: 2
This is wai aiym hawt.

RE: Word
By jlips6 on 6/28/2008 12:12:46 PM , Rating: 2
this is why I don't listen to crap rap

Look no further than the guy driving the vehicle
By cparka23 on 6/18/2008 4:55:24 PM , Rating: 4
The driver probably threw his cigarette out the window only to have it fly back into the car through the rear window. I've seen it a million times...

By Mk4ever on 6/18/2008 11:57:52 PM , Rating: 2
Well, it's either you have a weird thing with enjoying to watch people driving and smoking, or your last sentence should read: "I've done it a million times..."

In the second possibility, you also still have a weird problem... ;)

By BMFPitt on 6/18/2008 4:33:10 PM , Rating: 5
On its final voyage, the driver noticed that the back seat caught on fire
That is such a great quote.

By Mitch101 on 6/18/2008 4:50:48 PM , Rating: 5
The proper term for when a car is on fire:


Why am I not that surprised?
By Talon75 on 6/18/08, Rating: 0
By SiliconAddict on 6/18/2008 6:26:02 PM , Rating: 4
please enlighten us. What tech is out there that can be implemented nation wide without needing to retrofit the infrastructure. That doesn't require more energy to generate the fuel then to use, and that is as easy to implement as hybrids?
I keep hearing people bitch about hybrids, but as a realistic, practical solution goes...they got nothing.

This won't be news until...
By Maruta731 on 6/18/2008 3:54:58 PM , Rating: 3
NBC Dateline rigs up a fiery explosion for it.

Charger Problems
By AlvinCool on 6/18/2008 3:47:29 PM , Rating: 2
The car experienced charger issues, meaning it received less charge than intended under the driving conditions it was in. As a hybrid it runs off both a combustion engine and an electric engine. The lithium ion battery is most likely located in the rear of the car. Where is the gas tank, possibly also near the rear of the car. The battery pack was damaged, it just didn't explode. It's conceivable that the amount of current fed into the battery pack from braking and the high current charging system shorted out starting the fire. If this is a case they may need to re-design how to funnel the current to the battery pack.

Fire, Fire...
By greylica on 6/18/2008 4:59:18 PM , Rating: 2
- OMG, I forgot my laptop turned on in the seat...

kabummmm !

And there was another Toshiba...

eject eject eject
By dare2savefreedom on 6/18/2008 8:21:01 PM , Rating: 2
they need to add a fire alarm and an ejection seat

too much "overclock"?
By bigsnyder on 6/18/2008 8:23:26 PM , Rating: 2
They were probably "overlocking" and pushed the FSB too high. Maybe they should try nitrous cooling.

as i think about it
By dare2savefreedom on 6/18/2008 8:52:28 PM , Rating: 2
the oil companies did it to scare people away from non-oil sucking cars

blame game
By andrinoaa on 6/18/2008 9:20:06 PM , Rating: 2
Everyone's a comedian, lol.
Big deal, surprised something so new has had so few screw-ups!

Possible new advertising slogans
By Aloonatic on 6/19/2008 4:34:03 AM , Rating: 2
The car in front is on fire


The car on fire is a Toyota

Take your pick

By DeepBlue1975 on 6/19/2008 10:39:51 AM , Rating: 2
Hybrids are HOT!

I call...
By Mojo the Monkey on 6/20/2008 6:18:13 PM , Rating: 2
...sabotage by the oil companies. :)

Look ma, I'm a bomb rida!
By Pirks on 6/18/2008 4:47:35 PM , Rating: 1
My custom Trek L200 e-bike with 72V 12AH Lithium battery pack looks waaay cooler now, gotta put a bomb sticker on it or somethin :-)

its back...
By bond007taz on 6/19/2008 11:37:59 AM , Rating: 1
2007 prius = 1971 pinto
note: it will be made for 10 years before they decide to stop making it because too many people are dying

So when can we expect recalls
By Sylar on 6/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: So when can we expect recalls
By HVAC on 6/18/2008 4:21:20 PM , Rating: 2
The battery pack was not the cause of the problem in this case.

By SiliconAddict on 6/18/2008 5:35:15 PM , Rating: 2
try never because unlike these people Toyota and the like do real QC on their parts. Est the batteries.

So what?
By Kanti on 6/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: So what?
By Brandon Hill on 6/18/2008 3:16:05 PM , Rating: 5
A retrofitted plug-in Prius using technology that will show up in future vehicles in the next two to three years using batteries from a supplier -- A123 -- which is providing batteries for the Chevrolet Volt. And the vehicle previously experienced problems relating to its charger.

PHEVs are new tech and lessons learned from accidents like this are instrumental in providing safe vehicles down the road. You can bet that Toyota is probably sending a few of its engineers to look into the accident as well as it would be BENEFICIAL to it as a company.

RE: So what?
By bighairycamel on 6/18/08, Rating: 0
RE: So what?
By Brandon Hill on 6/18/2008 3:27:43 PM , Rating: 5
As someone who support hybrids, writes about them all the time, and is genuinely interested in them, I don't think it's fear mongering on my part.

I'm an auto nut at heart and always have been -- there was an incident regarding an emerging technology that will be in hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the coming years and I reported on it.

RE: So what?
By Ringold on 6/18/2008 3:40:57 PM , Rating: 5
I for one thought it was a valid news item. Ford had its problem with cruise controls causing fires, and these guys have this. Naming and shaming is partly what the news media is supposed to do, right?

Plus, anything with that much battery power in it certainly falls under the 'tech' category, thus.. DailyTech.

RE: So what?
By smitty3268 on 6/18/2008 4:47:42 PM , Rating: 2
This is a lot like that nuclear story that Jason did - if you read the article carefully, it draws the correct conclusion. But if you just glance at the headline and maybe a sentence or two before commenting, you can see something completely different.

RE: So what?
By Steve Guilliot on 6/18/2008 9:13:12 PM , Rating: 2
Not a valid point. Ford cruise control problems were part of a trend. This is one incident. To imply that a single malfunction somehow reflects on a manufacturer or technology is reaching too far.

I understand why this was posted however. Hybrids are controversial for some strange reason, so any story about exploding Pruis' is bound to be popular.

RE: So what?
By GTVic on 6/18/2008 3:41:45 PM , Rating: 2
They why not title the article differently to reflect what you say the article is about?

RE: So what?
By UppityMatt on 6/18/2008 3:24:25 PM , Rating: 1
are we jumping to conclusions? Just because it was having charger issues doesn't mean that it was the cause. I have to agree with the OP that this seems like a worthless article.

Unfortunately, there was no data logger present on the Prius so it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the fire.

RE: So what?
By Doormat on 6/18/2008 4:22:48 PM , Rating: 3
AutoblogGreen is reporting that A123 systems is actually behind LG Chem on producing and supplying batteries for the Chevy Volt, and that all the batteries currently installed in Volt mules (aka MaliVolts) are LG Chem and not A123.

Just wanted to clarify that one point.

RE: So what?
By someguy743 on 6/18/2008 8:58:05 PM , Rating: 2
I think this was just a case where an installer just didn't know what he was doing and he didn't assemble it properly. This is not the fault of the A123 batteries or plug-in car technology ... just a sloppy technician in need of more training.

People should start saving their money for a Chevy Volt when it comes out in late 2010 or 2011. THAT car is going to be one of the most tested and best engineered cars that GM has ever done. The Volt is going to be GM's flagship car. The whole company is fired up about the Volt program. GM is ready to lead us to the next era of transportation ... the electrification of the automobile.

This is a good conference for folks wanting to get up to speed on plug-in vehicle technology and other various issues. Trust me, plug in hybrids are going to get HUGE in the next 5-10 years.

The Chevy Volt is going to be AWESOME. Watch the video with Troy Clarke - President, GM-North America for details on the Volt development. GM is very serious about the Volt. I love GM these days. They "get it". They KNOW we have to deal with our oil addiction ... not 10 years from now but RIGHT NOW.

GM is moving pretty quickly on developing their hybrid technologies. The Volt is definitely going into production by late 2010 or so. I bet the exterior and interior is going to look pretty cool. I hear it might have a 0-60 time of 7-8 seconds and that quiet, instantaneous torque just like with the Tesla Roadster. It'll get up to 150 miles per gallon! Need I say more? Some Volt owners who drive under 40 miles a day will be filling up with gasoline or E85/C85 only 5-6 times per YEAR ... vs. the 24 or more times a year that most people fill up with their typical 15-20 mpg gas guzzlers. The Volt will REALLY "stick it to OPEC and Big Oil". We won't need their super expensive, polluting gasoline and diesel nearly as much. :)

RE: So what?
By Doormat on 6/19/2008 12:54:00 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed, I think the Volt will be an amazing car. I cant wait to get one.

What I worry about is quantity. We need to start building battery factories NOW for the coming onslaught of ER-EVs.

I drive about 35mi/day, occasionally more, so I would love to have a yearly gas bill of $500.

RE: So what?
By Darkskypoet on 6/19/2008 3:09:06 AM , Rating: 2
I just hope that this second coming of GM supposedly "getting it", doesn't end up with scrapping a bunch of desired and working electric / hybrid cars... LIKE the LAST time GM got it! (see EV-1)

(But I too won't replace my current vehicle until I get something like the Volt or other plug in electric / Hybrid. Gas = $1.40 gallon, electricity = $0.058/ KWh here.) :) :) :)

RE: So what?
By djc208 on 6/19/2008 7:29:58 AM , Rating: 2
Where are you getting gas for $1.40/gallon!? I'd move there if it wouldn't cost me $4.10/gallon to get there ;-)

Well the EV-1 was a test vehicle leased to the public, like a beta test from a car manufacturer. The Volt is a production vehicle, you'll be able to own it, not just lease it. The only other example I know of is the old Chrysler gas turbine cars. They were leased to people short term for testing, and like the EV-1 just weren't ready for prime time.

Of course now that I think about it maybe Chrysler needs to start working on this again for their own version of the Volt!

RE: So what?
By someguy743 on 6/19/2008 7:48:11 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure why but the link to the Brookings/ Plug-In Conference didn't work. Lots of good information on plug-in hybrids for people wanting to learn more about it ... especially the Chevy Volt. Anyway, here is the link:

RE: So what?
By mrEvil on 6/19/2008 11:43:41 AM , Rating: 2
Since I work in the utility business, and we have had discussions about this, if everyone gets an electric hybrid, where is all of this extra electricity going to come from? Demand is already rising, and while more supply is coming online, or will be in the near future, will it be enough to meet this demand.

I am all for saving gas, money, and being good to the environment, but I am do not believe that there is an infrastructure in place to support a high number of electric cars.

RE: So what?
By Alexstarfire on 6/19/2008 1:23:17 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear plants would be great, but for some reason the government doesn't like them even though they are far better than what they were in the 60s and 70s.

RE: So what?
By bugzrrad on 6/18/2008 5:33:10 PM , Rating: 2
You can bet that Toyota is probably sending a few of its engineers to look into the accident as well as it would be BENEFICIAL to it as a company.

Why? Obviously the incident will get investigated, but Toyota will probably have nothing to do with the cause since all other Priuses aren't exploding around the country (that I know of). It was probably just faulty wiring by the customizer; butt-connectors instead of soldered/heat-shrinked wiring, etc... I see it all the time.

I was also going to say something along the lines of doubting that Toyota relies on DT for their news, but I lost my train of thought. It was going to be hilarious, too.

RE: So what?
By Misty Dingos on 6/18/2008 3:38:21 PM , Rating: 5
OK because I am nice and I like to help people out I will explain this for you.

This is a story about a high technology car. If a car that was not a hybrid or other high technology car burned up in front of your house it the news account of that would not likely be included on this web site. Not even if you threw a Blu-Ray player into the fire. And that is because that would be about an average car not one that has a technological edge to it.

OK to sum here. High tech car news goes here. Car news that doesn’t have a high tech feel to it or perhaps a cool gadget or impact the auto market in a technical or innovative way well that news could go anywhere else but here.

Normally I don’t ask questions but if it can illustrate a point. Do you know that hybrids are considered high tech? Do you know where you are? Are you feeling light headed or just empty headed? You do seem a little paranoid. Do you feel like they are watching you? If you do please seek quailified medical assistance.

Anyway I am glad I could explain this for you. I feel much better.

RE: So what?
By tmouse on 6/18/2008 3:43:05 PM , Rating: 3
Well it’s clearly too early to know if the mod was to blame. Just because the packs themselves did not "seem” to be extensively damaged it could easily be any number of other parts of the mod. Over a million Prius have been sold and this seems to be the first spontaneous fire and CRN grounds their fleet. Although The A123 lithium-ion battery was damaged but remained largely intact and functioning does not clear the rest of the custom PHEV charging system. That’s news enough to be reported, there doesn’t have to be a hidden agenda.

RE: So what?
By RjBass on 6/18/2008 4:01:24 PM , Rating: 3
"Who owns Daily Tech anyways?

You is not from round deez here parts is ya?

RE: So what?
By Jeff7181 on 6/18/2008 4:43:41 PM , Rating: 2
Daily Tech reports news. This is news. What's the problem?

RE: So what?
By RU482 on 6/18/2008 5:00:36 PM , Rating: 4
Here's my blind assumption, based on the stated facts.

1. The installer of this PHEV kit either did not cover up a HV wire throughly with insulation

2. there was a damaged cable caused by the vehicle user

the result of 1 or 2 is intermittent shorts to the chassis, which eventually ignited the car seat.


RE: So what?
By jplb70 on 6/18/2008 9:02:54 PM , Rating: 2
Sabotage by big oil!

RE: So what?
By Bruneauinfo on 6/18/2008 11:27:06 PM , Rating: 2
it's one of a few hundred test vehicles that uses a third-party modification at that. modding a new technology probably increases the possibility for errors.

they're engineers. they want things like this to happen. they want the system to fail so they can find the weak links.

think NASA. ._.

RE: So what?
By FredEx on 6/20/2008 2:44:01 AM , Rating: 1
I have to agree with you. These were units in a test situation. Research and Development. Shit happens, you figure out why, you make it not happen again.

Geeeeeez! Folks need to relax.

RE: So what?
By Choppedliver on 6/19/08, Rating: 0
"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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