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