Hybrid Car Explosion Kills Two People

A European Union funded project to turn cars with conventional combustion engines into hybrid vehicles, running partly on solar energy, has taken a tragic development.

A prototype Life-Save project vehicle blew up last week in the southern Italian city of Naples, resulting in the deaths of two people, Reuters reported.

Deaths associated with new transportation methods have happened before on multiple occansions. For example in June 2022 Shanghai-based electric car maker Nio said it was co-operating with police investigating the deaths of two people, when one of its vehicles fell from the third floor of its headquarters.

Life-Save project

And now another two people have died after the Life-Save prototype vehicle exploded in southern Italy.

According to Reuters, last Friday one vehicle equipped with the experimental technology caught fire, seriously injuring the two people who were on board.

Maria Vittoria Prati, a researcher at Italy’s National Council of Research (CNR), died of complications from third-degree burns on Monday this week.

The other occupant, research apprentice Fulvio Filace, then died overnight, a spokesperson for the Cardarelli hospital in Naples told Reuters on Thursday.

Both Prati and Filace had been hospitalised “in very serious conditions” but “there was more hope of saving” Filace “given his younger age,” the spokesperson, Pietro Rinaldi, told Reuters.

“But it was not enough,” he added.

Unknown cause

Naples prosecutors are reportedly trying to find out what caused the explosion, but their investigation is for the moment not targeting any specific suspect, the ANSA news agency said.

Expressing “great shock and sorrow” for the deaths, the CNR said Thursday it had started an internal audit and was cooperating with the investigations.

Earlier this week, the CNR paid tribute to Prati as “a brilliant researcher” and “an authority in the field of the study of emissions and the use of alternative fuels.”

eProInn, a spin-off of the University of Salerno in southern Italy that had a lead role in the Life-Save project, was working on retro-fitting conventional cars with solar-hybrid powertrains, Reuters reported.

Its patented idea was to equip regular production cars with additional electric motors, charged by a battery and solar panels fitted on the roof and the bonnet.

The project was financed by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme. In the wake of Friday’s accident, its website was reportedly deactivated.

Other deaths

As mentioned above, there have been multiple deaths associated with developing new transportation options.

Image credit: Talia Desch

In May 2021 a Tesla Model X struck two police officers in China, killing one of them. It was not clear if Autopilot or FSB was been used at the time.

One of the most famous cases however involved Uber when in March 2018, one of Uber’s self-driving cars was involved in the fatal accident after it hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, while in the car was in autonomous mode.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, died from her injuries after she crossed the Arizona road late at night, right in front of the Uber self-driving car.

The fatality in Tempe, Arizona, was thought to be the first death caused by an autonomous vehicle on public roads.

In March 2019 prosecutors studied the footage from the accident, and ruled that Uber was not criminally liable.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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