Flaming Battery Syndrome Plagues Zero Electric Motorcycles In Hong Kong


People love stories about lithium ion batteries that catch fire. Early in its history, Tesla Motors had it share of issues with batteries. Boeing has had problems with batteries for its Dreamliner. Now the plague of flaming batteries has spread to the fleet of Zero S ZF9 electric motorcycles used by the Hong Kong police force since 2014. As a result, all 50 bikes have been taken out of service, hopefully temporarily.

Zero Motorcycle in Hong Kong

According to the South China Morning Post, a blaze that broke out at Ngau Tau Kok police station early Friday. Two of the electric motorcycles were being charged at the time when one burst into flames. The fire engulfed the other bike and spread to a police van parked nearby. It is the first fire reported during the two years the machines made by Zero Motorcycles have been in use in Hong Kong.

The blaze was brought under control quickly and there were no injuries. A preliminary investigation blames the fire on a suspected short circuit. Whether the fault was in the motorcycle or in the charging equipment was not immediately clear.  The police, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, and the local agent for Zero Motorcycles are jointly investigating the incident. A source says all 40 Zero motorcycles have been taken out of service as a precaution until a precise cause of the blaze can be determined and corrective action taken. An initial investigation determined the motorcycle that caught fire had been functioning normally prior to being connected to the charger.

In December, a $1,000,000 prototype electric bus destined for road trials in Hong Kong was destroyed by flames after its battery caught fire. Investigators later determined the battery was manufactured improperly, allowing water to seep through the battery casing and leading to a short circuit. The bus was a total loss. Hong Kong authorities allege that technical staff where the bus was manufactured mislead officials about the problem before the bus was delivered to Hong Kong.

Risk of fire is always present with today’s lithium ion batteries. On New Year’s Day, a Tesla Model S went up in flames while charging in Norway. The cause of that blaze was also attributed to a short circuit. Battery fires make the news because they are new technology. Fires in gasoline powered cars stopped making headlines during the Nixon Administration.

Source and photo credit: South China Morning Post

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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Jason Willhite

    The electric car craze in China frightens me. If the poorly made Chineese hover boards are any indication of what could happen, I don’t want to think about 10s of thousands of poorly made electric vehicles all catching on fire. ?

    • Steve Hanley

      No worries, Jason. Buy a Tesla. Be happy! : – )

      • Jason Willhite

        Believe me, if I had the budget to do so I would. I just purchased a new Leaf just last week and that was barely within budget.

  • Terry Hershner

    That is a Brammo in the picture just FYI

    • Steve Hanley

      Dang. I grabbed that photo from the source article. Apparently the HKPD is using more than one brand of electric motorcycle. Thanks for lending us your sharp eyes!

      • Manfred Schmidt

        So, which one did burn down? Maybe it was a Brammo like the one pictured, not a ZERO that burned?

        • Steve Hanley

          The story says it was a Zero that caught fire.

  • neroden

    So, still much lower rates of fire than gasoline cars and gasoline motorcycles, then.

    There are an average of 57 gas-car fires per billion kilometers driven, in the US alone, as of 2010. (Higher elsewhere.)

    Electric cars reached about a billion kilometers globally a year and a half ago, and I think we’re still in the single digits for fires.

  • benswing

    Such a clickbait title that implied the issue is larger than it is. Had higher expectations for Gas2, but that’s gone now.

  • Vince Gerard Conlon

    Brammo was the first thing i noticed in this. But please do explain why the nixon era ended gas fire reports. That could be a curious article.