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According to the Eindhoven University magazine Cursor, racing driver Bart van de Sande, who was in the car on the test day, was able to escape the vehicle in time, aided by the electric car’s many safety systems. Even though the fire department was quickly on the scene, the car completely burned out. No one was harmed.

Team manager Dennis Gubbels told Cursor that on Friday afternoon, when accelerating during a test drive at the test location in Lommel, Belgium, the car jerked and came to a standstill. Gubbels: “Shortly after that, the driver saw smoke coming out of the side of the car, at which point he managed to get out of the car within about two seconds.” This is also a requirement imposed on all Formula Student teams, says Gubbels: a fully buckled-up driver must be able to get out by themselves within five seconds. “All drivers practice on that intensively as well, and thankfully that certainly worked here.”

Also read: TU Eindhoven students win first autonomous race in Barcelona

The URE15 totally burned out within minutes. The fire brigade, which was on the scene very quickly, could do nothing to save the car. Gubbels: “The fire brigade eventually used an infrared sensor to make sure everything was actually extinguished, because it is often quite a feat to extinguish electric vehicles properly. We then brought the remains of the car to our workshop at Momentum on the TU/e campus.”

Lithium batteries pose a risk

Gubbels: “Although lithium batteries invariably pose a risk, the car’s safety systems did their job and ensured that everyone got out safely. This involves numerous sensors and fire-resistant components, such as a special barrier between the battery compartment and the driver.” This is one of the few parts that is still recognizable according to Gubbels. “So, that barrier clearly did its job and helped Bart get away safely.”

In addition, the team manager states, the wreckage of the car will be inspected in detail to analyze the fire and draw lessons from this for future systems. Gubbels sees it as a tragedy for the present team. “We were still on campus on Friday and informed all members via an online connection of what had happened. Needless to say, everyone was shocked.”

Another unfortunate factor, according to Gubbels, is that the upcoming URE team now no longer has the URE15 at its disposal to try new innovations out on. “Of course, all the knowledge that we have amassed with the URE15 is available to them. This knowledge can be used during the development and construction of a future URE16. However, it is, of course, really great if you can test certain things with the forerunner, or if you can use parts from the old car that you don’t yet have access to at that time.”

According to Cursor, the University Racing Eindhoven team has decided not to share any images of the burned-out wreck with the media at this point.