UPDATE 2: Three Injured In Electric Bus Rollover Incident During Testing

APR 11 2018 BY STEVEN LOVEDAY 24

A New Flyer electric bus on a recent testing trip rolled over and injured the driver and two others.

Generally, electric vehicles don’t roll over without a fight. This is especially true if they employ the “skateboard” style battery pack, which fits beneath the floor of the vehicle. The packs are extremely heavy and create a low center of gravity, making a rollover difficult.

***UPDATE 2 – April 11 – New Flyer has issued a thorough statement on the manner now. Here it is in its entirety:

NEW FLYER BUS INCIDENT ON APRIL 3RD IN ANNISTON, ALABAMA

On April 3, 2018, a test battery-electric bus owned by New Flyer Industries Inc.’s New Flyer of America Inc. was involved in a single-vehicle incident in Anniston, Ala., while undergoing advanced engineering and road test evaluation for internal study. The driver and three other employees were on board the bus, with no serious injuries reported.

Wayne Joseph, president of New Flyer, stated, “Investigative findings, including on-board telematics, clearly point to the operator being the cause while negotiating an S-turn at a speed significantly over the posted speed limit.”

Mr. Joseph further explained: “Following a complete technical and situational investigation, the cause of incident was determined to be driver error and not a result of any design issue, nor component failure. We are relieved that no one was seriously injured, and we will review our test protocols to ensure safety, while continuing to stress our buses to their limits so that when production buses are delivered to customers, they are safe and efficient.”

New Flyer has taken appropriate disciplinary action with the driver.

Founded in 1930, New Flyer has a 50-year record of effectively designing, validating and manufacturing electric heavy-duty transit buses. The company has delivered over 7,300 buses powered by electric motors and batteries. The Xcelsior battery-electric bus has thoroughly and completed the U.S. Federal Transit Administration (FTA) bus test program at Altoona, which includes double-lane-change obstacle avoidance, structural integrity and durability, reliability and performance, and maintainability. New Flyer electric buses currently operate safely and reliably in some of North America’s largest cities, including: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.

“Contrary to information on various blogs and postings over the past week regarding this incident, the location of the battery packs was not the cause of the incident,” explained Chris Stoddart, New Flyer senior vice-president of engineering and customer service. “New Flyer places batteries in both the engine compartment and on the roof to distribute loads similar to those of its diesel-hybrid- or compressed-natural-gas-powered buses (of which there are well over 10,000 safely in service across Canada and the United States).”

Mr. Stoddart continued: “Provisions for rooftop battery packs are common across all North American and international bus manufacturers. In fact, heavy-duty transit buses built by other manufacturers with batteries located only under the floor (between the axles) have recently been tested at the FTA Altoona track and have exceeded front axle weight ratings, resulting in a significant limitation to the number of passengers that can be carried on board.”

New Flyer has contacted us with a statement. Apparently, New Flyer sent this statement to some other publications that originally posted the story, but many didn’t update the story to include it. No secrets here at InsideEVs  … if the organization sends us a reputable update on the situation, we will gladly share it with our readers. It follows in its entirety:

Preliminary findings suggests operator error as the likely cause of the accident and not the position of battery packs on the New Flyer bus. Blaming the positioning of batteries is irresponsible speculation, and all North American electric bus manufacturers (New Flyer, BYD, Proterra and others) have provisions for some rooftop located batteries. 

It is irresponsible for any party to suggest without evidence that an incident involving a test bus at New Flyer’s facility has any relevance to battery location.

All New Flyer buses on the road today meet or exceed all applicable motor vehicle regulations and safety standards.

Watch This: Proterra Electric Bus Conquer Utah’s Steepest Roads

As originally reported by The Anniston Star and relayed by Electrek, the New flyer battery-electric bus was testing near its headquarters in Anniston, Alabama when the incident occurred. It was rounding a corner, went off the road slightly, then rolled over and crashed. Sergeant Michael Webb from the Anniston police department told The Star (via Electrek):

They were going around one of the curves on Werner Drive when the bus went off the road slightly to the right. The driver lost control and it tipped over onto its side and slid to a stop.

We’re not real sure what caused them to go off the road. New Flyer is investigating the components of the bus. Since we didn’t have any major injuries or other property damage, we’re leaving it up to them to investigate if there was a mechanical error.

Fortunately, those involved only suffered minor injuries. Though they were transported to the hospital, reportedly they are okay.

So, why did the bus flip?

It seems with all of those battery packs and the vehicle’s size and weight, a very abrupt maneuver at high speeds would be required for it to go over so easily.

Interestingly, it appears that New Flyer positions some (or all) of the battery packs on the roof of the bus. This would have a completely opposite effect than locating the batteries below the vehicle’s floor. A high center of gravity could cause these buses to be quite unstable. However, we don’t have enough information at this point to know exactly what happened.

We did stumble upon an interesting Tweet related to the accident. It implies that electric bus competitor Proterra may have voiced concerns about such a design. Again, we can only hope the investigation will bring us some answers.

Source: The Anniston Star (paywall) via Electrek

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24 Comments on "UPDATE 2: Three Injured In Electric Bus Rollover Incident During Testing"

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TheWay

Didn’t a chinese city get like thousands of BYD buses with batteries on top? I hope these things don’t become common and give bad press : /

Ambulator

Every BYD bus I’ve seen in the west had the batteries in the floor. Batteries on top only make sense to me for short range buses which use frequent charging. BYD uses iron phosphate batteries which seem like a poor fit for that market.

James

Another proof that EVs are dangerous

Rhaman68

Do you troll everything? OMG any vehicle that loses traction by leaving the paved surface will slide and depending on terrain stay upright or flip. Has nothing to do with the drivetrain.

Doubldutch

Proof that retrofitting buses designed during the ICE-age is dangerous. If you want to build an EV, it has to be from the ground up, with the battery under the floor. I guess they considered that but decided it was too expensive.

Rhaman68

Simple, one wheel going to grass loses traction causing understeer and off it goes. Depending on terrain the vehicle can stay upright or flip. Happens thousands of time per hour around the planet!!

Clive

James is just stuck under the bridge.

Jason

Hilarious! Who’d think a could tonnes of batteries on the roof would make it unstable?
Of course it might not be that much, but I suspect is the Leaf 24kWh battery is 250kg, then enough batteries to power a bus would be significantly more.
Even if they retrofit a bus, surely there is heaps of room in the engine compartment and petrol tank area?
Luckily it sounds like no one was seriously injured.

mn

Please no battery packs on the roof, Proterra was designed ground up to be an EV bus.

gary

“Flip” and “Rollover” are media exaggerations from the what was in the police statement:
“…it tipped over onto its side and slid to a stop”.

Still not a good thing, but far from a flip or rollover. Leaving the road and into a ditch or onto a slope with soft ground can easily cause any vehicle to tip onto it’s side.

Dan B.

Exactly this. A paved shoulder or hard shoulder is a way different situation than a soft shoulder or slope.

Ambulator

There are advantages to having the batteries on top. The main one is that it makes it easier for cripples to get on and off by lowering the step height, which is important to most public bus lines.

I certainly prefer batteries on the bottom, but I can understand the impulse to move them up near the charger.

TheWay

You don’t have to raise the height of the floor to have batteries on the bottom. Many buses have a thing where the first half of the bus is lower elevation while the 2nd half has another step upwards.

The other solution is to have the batteries in a U shape under the seats.

It’s all a matter of design.

Steven

Many?

Where?
What transit systems use them?
Around here, articulated busses are all the rage on non-urban routes, and “standard length” in the city.

Magnus H

comment image

Here’s an example from Sweden.

Casper10

Another case of the EV fell over they must be dangerous, ICV’s would never be on the road if this were the case, the biggest prob EV’s have got is they can’t even build a test dummy to try out drivelines mounting points or any other of a mirriad of things because when/if something happens it’s the EV’s fault,I seem to remember some pretty ordinary looking test platforms when they were testing the jet ejector seats lol

Mark C

The title and a couple of times in the article, we see the term “rollover.” It doesn’t give exactly the same image in ones mind as “tipped over onto its side and slid to a stop” from the police description.

A top mounted battery does seem a poor choice for these circumstances, in an almost completely unloaded bus. Had it been fully loaded with passengers, the added weight on the bottom likely would have made a substantial difference, Shame about the {deserved} bad press for this accident. It would be interesting to know how much of a drop happened when the driver “went off the road slightly.” A deep drop like a drainage culbert would paint a completely different picture than dropping a couple inches onto a gravel shoulder, or is this just me?

Jay D

Ugh… It appears that they are using the same approach as New Flyer CNG buses, which have gas cylinders on the roof. An understandable compromise given the risks of gas leakage, but not a good idea at all for a battery-electric bus.

Tony Alpha

Don’t blame EV technology for this. New Flyer tries to make every bus the same old way. Metal body, put stuff on top. They’ve been building vehicles like this since the stone ages, I think they hammer them together with rock tools. Lazy, lack of engineering.

John Doe

Shouldn’t the ESP on a modern bus have i corporated sensors to prevent tipping?

I took the licence to drive a bus and truck again, two years ago. We were driving the vehicles on a winter driving test track, and the safety systems on the Volvo bus and the Scania truck was impressive.

Og course, a lot of weight high is not too good, but the electronics should compensate for it.
I’m sure they can fix it with software.
I’ve noticed several bus brands have batteries on the til, in order to build a City bus with now floor, and easy entrance/exits for wheelchairs.
Given the huge size of a bus, there must be room now, with a skateboard design. At least just keep them under the seats, and keep the walking area noe for wheelchairs, baby strollers and so on.

About 20 years ago I was at a bodyguard school in Alabama, where active driving was a part of the course. We learned to tip a truck over at very low speed, to block a street for example. I’m sure that is not as easy with a new truck, unless they can turn the ESP and stuff off.

Rick Ross

https://youtu.be/d16-fBUfBxQ

Top heavy vehicles can roll, even heavy duty. Once the suspension starts rocking back and forth, it is over. It is a shame they are blaming their own driver. Buses shouldn’t roll simply because a driver made a common mistake. Good design is inherently safer than bad design.

Ambulator

Their main argument seems to be that, with proper care driving, batteries on top can be safe. That is likely true. It is also true that putting batteries under the floor gives you an extra safety margin. I want that extra safety.