On Monday in Valencia, Spain, an ABB FIA Formula E race car driven by Robert Shwartzman of the DS Penske team, stopped on the track during part of what was scheduled to be a three-day test session for the series.
The Formula E car was taken back to the garage, where a battery from the car exploded and caused a fire in the garage, injuring one person.
In July, Special ONE Racing lost two FIA World Rallycross race cars, a workshop truck, and valuable tools in a fire that occurred in the paddock of the Lydden Hill circuit (Great Britain) during a race weekend.
A pair of recent electric battery-related fires, including one that resulted in an explosion that injured at least one person, are slowing a pair of FIA all-electric racing series.
On Monday in Valencia, Spain, an ABB FIA Formula E race car driven by Robert Shwartzman of the DS Penske team, stopped on the track during part of what was scheduled to be a three-day test session for the series. The car was taken back to the garage, where a battery from the car exploded and caused a fire in the garage.
One person was injured and transported to a local hospital for further testing. The fire caused the paddock to be evacuated and the session cancelled.
The fire, according to a Formula E spokesperson, did not involve a car that had tested the new quick-charge system that will allow in-race battery charging possibly as soon as the 2024 season.
Our first day back on the track!
Unfortunately a fire was detected in the pit lane and garage area which has been contained, but due to this, we were only able to have one test session.
Thankfully everyone is safe and we’ll await for more news on what will happen tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/RBoX4A7tH7
— DS PENSKE FORMULA E TEAM (@ds_penske_fe) October 24, 2023
The FIA, which governs the Formula E all-electric open-wheel racing series, issued the following statement following the incident in Valencia:
In response to an incident earlier today at Formula E pre-season testing in Valencia when a fire caused damage to a garage in the pit lane, on-track testing activity will not go ahead tomorrow, Wednesday.
Damage from the incident was contained following the activation of emergency procedures. One person was taken to hospital as a precaution but released without treatment.
An investigation into the cause of the incident is ongoing, but has already identified an issue which is being addressed. The investigation and further safety assessments will be completed and we aim to resume on-track activities from Thursday, subject to final confirmation tomorrow.
— Formula E Zone (@FormulaEZone) October 24, 2023
The electric battery-related fire was the second involving an FIA all-electric racing series in recent months.
In July, the Special ONE World Rallycross racing team of drivers Sebastien Loeb and Guerlain Chicherit suffered a major loss of equipment in a garage fire caused by a faulty electric battery system.
According to the Special ONE team,
"On Friday, July 21, Special ONE Racing lost two race cars, a workshop truck, and valuable tools in a fire that occurred in the paddock of the Lydden Hill circuit (Great Britain), during the fourth round of the World Rallycross Championship (World RX). The significant material damage caused by the fire directly resulted in the partial suspension of the team’s sporting activities and those of its partners."
The series was scheduled to return to action at the November 10-11 World RX of Hong Kong Rallycross event, but Special ONE team has declined the invitation over concerns that the battery issues have not been resolved.
Continued Special ONE in its release today:
"Various testimonies, surveillance camera footage, telemetry data, and expertise based on samples taken from the debris have definitively established the origin of the blaze: a thermal runaway of the lithium-ion battery onboard the car," the team said in a press release today. "Kreisel Electric, the supplier of this equipment, which is common to all RX1e category models, could not guarantee that such an incident would not recur in the future.
"Therefore, the FIA has decided not to allow these cars to compete until further notice. If this situation persists, it will have the consequence of jeopardizing the future of the discipline, as it undermines the well-being of all its stakeholders."
The team statement continued,
"The team is disappointed by the lackluster handling of the aftermath of the fire that had devastated its cars and equipment three months ago in England, rendering the continuation of the championship with category 1 cars (RX1e) impossible. The batteries of these cars were deemed insufficiently reliable to guarantee the prevention of new fires."