Paris takes 149 e-buses off the road after two fires

On Friday, the RATP, the Autonomous Management of Parisian Transport, temporarily removed 149 electric buses from circulation as a precaution. The reason is two recent fires in such vehicles in the middle of the street in the French capital. The vehicles involved are from the Bolloré Bluebus 5SE series.

On Friday, an e-bus running on line 71 caught fire at around 8.05 a.m. on the Avenue de France near the Bibliothèque François-Mitterand in the 13th district. A surveillance camera captured the incident.

It shows the bus at the stop, with “No passengers” on it. Then a tiny explosion shakes the roof, followed by smoke and a real firework display, with a column of flames rising into the sly. The driver escapes safely.

Reasons undetermined

On 4 April, another fire broke out for an undetermined reason on board a similar e-bus of the Bolloré Bluebus 5SE series while running on the 86 boulevard Saint-Germain line in the 5th district. No one was injured, but the vehicle was destroyed.

Because these are two fires in less than a month on vehicles of the same brand and series, RATP, in collaboration with Ile-de-France Mobility, has decided, as a precautionary measure, to temporarily withdraw from circulation the 149 e-buses in this series, i.e., almost a third of its electric fleet.

Bolloré bus issue

The investigation now needs to determine the exact cause of the fire and ensure that there are no similar failures on other vehicles. But, according to a spokesman for the RATP, “it’s not an electric bus issue; it’s a Bolloré bus issue for this series.”

The public transport operator and maintainer has 149 buses of this model supplied by Blue Solutions, a company of the French conglomerate Bolloré SE. Its electric fleet includes 500 vehicles delivered by Alstom, Bolloré, and Heuliez (Iveco), out of 4 700 buses, which have been in operation since 2016 without any significant incident so far.

RATP has also ordered 451 additional e-buses from Iveco, Bolloré, and Irizar. Apart from Paris, several Bluebus SE are also commercially used in Brussels.

In a reaction, Bluebus says it is actively cooperating with RATP to determine the cause of the incident. The buses have the same type of LMP (lithium-metal-polymer) batteries. According to the company, they must be maintained at a temperature of 60°C and are a guarantee of solidity.

Greening the bus fleet

An incident like Friday in Paris, although this was a traffic accident, also occurred the same day in Carcassonne but with an electric bus of the Atak brand. It was a bus without passengers, used for tests. The driver had deviated from his trajectory and hit a bridge to avoid a vehicle, which caused his lithium battery to catch fire.

More and more cities in Europe are turning to green their fleets as an essential step toward changing energy consumption and air quality. RATP’s strategy is to green its fleet as part of the Bus 2025 plan. Its objective is to convert all bus centers to electric or renewable gas by 2025, purchasing 4 700 clean vehicles.

For example, Milan’s public transport operator ATM has ordered a further 75 e-buses from Solaris. The new order is part of a 2019 framework contract for up to 250 electric buses. Milan and ATM want to phase out all diesel buses by 2030. To this end, the city council green-lighted a 249 million euros fleet renewal program.

Flemish transport company De Lijn and Brussels transport company MIVB/STIB will also green their fleet. De Lijn will order 99 electric buses worth 66,5 million euros next year. MIVB/STIB will replace 411 diesel and 402 hybrid buses because they will be banned from circulation in 2025 due to the LEZ (Low-Emission Zone).

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