Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature light came on

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mourns
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Joined: 07/17/2012
Points: 5

Hi All - I have been registered but inactive user for a while now. I have had my 2007 VX-1 for since 2008 and have loved every minute riding it.
I have had no problems with it in 4 years of light use, other than once, a few months ago it lost its charge quickly. I put that down to a very short interrupted charging sequence. It was fine again after 2 full recharges.

Unfortunately 3 weeks ago today it caught fire on a short trip back from Sydney city to my home. My daughter took photos while I was still shaking a bit. I sent an email to Vectrix within 2 hours as I thought they would want to investigate the safety issue. I have copied it below. After of couple of days with no response I sent the same email to an email address I found for the CEO, Don Buckley. No response from them either.
So I thought I should at least post it here so that anyone else with a VX-1 or thinking of getting one knows of the risk.
I am sure many of the highly experienced technicians on this forum may have been able to detect this problem, but I am worried about the many vectrix owners like myself who aren't experts but just want a green ride. I am just very lucky there was an old boat fire extinguisher in my garage. I recommend carrying a small powder can extinguisher to all.

Good luck
Russell

--------------

Subject: My vectrix just caught fire and is now sadly dead
Date: 17 July 2012 4:09:16 PM AEST
To: media@vectrix.com

Hi ,
I am not sure who to contact regarding this but assume that you would know who in Vectrix will be able to deal with this.

This is a 2007 Vectrix with about 3000km on the clock.
I had just ridden it into Sydney CBD for a meeting (7km). 2 Hours later I left the city to come home across the Harbour Bridge. As I came off the expressway from the bridge on to Earnest St the battery light came on. From here it is only flat and then downhill all the way to my home and 1km distance. After a about 350metres of flat I turned into the steep down hill that goes down to my house. I used regenerative breaking to slow down and during that time the temperature light came on, with 380metres to go to my garage (downhill and flat coasting I made it there. Smoke started coming out from under the seat and then I quickly noticed that there was red glow of burning in under the plastic covers on the right hand side.

I ran to get a fire blanket and a fires extinguisher. I I found the fire blanket first and retarded the flames with that then thankfully found a small fire extinguisher in my garage. That successfully extinguished the fire, and then I wet the smouldering seat and plastic bits with a garden hose I had asked my daughter to fetch.

I was amazed how little warning I got that there was something seriously wrong. I thought you would want to know about this and try and work out what went wrong. I have loved my Vectrix until now.
I am very lucky that this happened just as I was getting home rather than when going into my meeting in Circular Quay in the CBD (just near the Opera House!)

Please advise who I can talk to about this.

Best regards
Russell

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__________________

Russell

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LeftieBiker
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Joined: 07/09/2011
Points: 651
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

If the temp light is something that can come on in anything other than an emergency, then you are right to try to act against the company - or what remains of it. Maybe the Laird should add a "BIKE ON FIRE!!!" message to the display...

LeftieBiker
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Joined: 07/09/2011
Points: 651
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

"Prepare to push" probably wouldn't be a bad idea, either, although that's more an issue with the factory firmware, I gather.

Anderson
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Joined: 10/11/2008
Points: 134
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

One idea for the cause is if a cell was hot enough to discolor the cell's case metal ( that we know happens ) and at the same time the cell's battery post bolts were loose, could the cell then have gotten hot enough to ignite the plastic case material around it ?
Another idea is hydrogen gas got ignited when a cell or cells vented after over heating. I guess that normaly isn't a problem becuse the air flow in the battery compartment doesn't allow that high a concentration.

antiscab
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Joined: 07/07/2007
Points: 1584
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

mourns wrote:

As I came off the expressway from the bridge on to Earnest St the battery light came on. From here it is only flat and then downhill all the way to my home and 1km distance. After a about 350metres of flat I turned into the steep down hill that goes down to my house. I used regenerative breaking to slow down and during that time the temperature light came on, with 380metres to go to my garage (downhill and flat coasting I made it there. Smoke started coming out from under the seat and then I quickly noticed that there was red glow of burning in under the plastic covers on the right hand side.

hi Russel,

impressive pictures

Vectrix Australia is long gone

Most likely what has happened is a single cell has failed short circuit.

cell failures tend to happen like this:

first they lose capacity
then they get reversed
once they are reversed far enough they heat up and lose capacity very quickly, and tend to have a relatively high resistance (you will usually get red battery light here)
if the battery is still being used, the resistance of the failed cell starts to fall, which stops the red battery lights

when that happens, that cell just acts as a resistor, not enough resistance to make the bike unrideable, but plenty enough to make it very hot

the failed cell definately wasn't near a temp sensor, hence the lack of warning of failure

In that situation, the most warning you are likely to get is a hissing sound of the bad cell venting.
once the cell has finnished venting, the temp will start to rise much faster, ending in fire

I once made a cell smoke, by riding a bike with the temp warning light on for an extended period, but in that case the temp sensor was on the failed cell
At the time I didn't care about killing a failed cell, I just wanted the battery to be flat/depleted

All new Vectrix are Lithium powered, which are monitored at a cell level, its just the older nimh Vectrix that has this design flaw

As far as your bike goes, do you have insurance?

as there was fire, the rest of your battery is probably now stuffed.
the plastic panels are easy enough to replace, but the frame may now be compromised

I would suggest you may now have a parts bike

the MC might still be ok, and the charger is probably fine aswell

Matt

__________________

Daily Ride:
2007 Vectrix, modified with 42 x Thundersky 60Ah
Vectrix 60Ah Lithium Tyres Fuel Registration Insurance cycle analyst replacement TC Charger
conversion
Spent so far: $5800 + $7000 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost to do it again: $2500 + $5600 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost for a Petrol bike:$6000 + + $1440 + $6000 + $800 + $1400 + $3200 servicing
Total spent: $17260
Total to do again: $12560
Total to have used a petrol bike: $18840
Total distance travelled so far: 79'120km

Aircon
Offline
Joined: 12/23/2009
Points: 424
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

antiscab wrote:

All new Vectrix are Lithium powered, which are monitored at a cell level, its just the older nimh Vectrix that has this design flaw

is the balancing problem overcome with your Li conversion?

Full Charge
Offline
Joined: 10/29/2009
Points: 8
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

Three VX-1 bikes caught fire in Rome 2007. Similiar circumstance - over heating battery, lose battery lead arced hydrogen gas. Vectrix did a total recall (best they could)and shut down of bike deliveres. At the time it was another nail in the coffin, because they lost 45 days of the US selling season. Vectrix built and rebuilt bikes 3 times before a bike ever was riden by the end consumer. Battery charger and battery fire problems plagued it's introduction to the world market. A Shame. I hope Danna Decosta or Don Buckley help you out of this situation.

antiscab
Offline
Joined: 07/07/2007
Points: 1584
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

Aircon wrote:
antiscab wrote:

All new Vectrix are Lithium powered, which are monitored at a cell level, its just the older nimh Vectrix that has this design flaw

is the balancing problem overcome with your Li conversion?

The BMS I supply with the conversion kit will get an unbalanced battery balanced eventually

It will also stop the charger from overcharging any cell, and prevent the charger from charging a damaged battery

I wouldn't go so far as to say it is impossible for the bike to catch fire, but it is less likely than with the nimh variant

As far as nimh rework goes - that would not necessarily prevent this type of fire
a cell failed short circuit can still get hot enough to burn without much in the way of prior warning
It just doesn't happen very often (as in with the same frequency as ICE bikes catch fire)

Matt

__________________

Daily Ride:
2007 Vectrix, modified with 42 x Thundersky 60Ah
Vectrix 60Ah Lithium Tyres Fuel Registration Insurance cycle analyst replacement TC Charger
conversion
Spent so far: $5800 + $7000 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost to do it again: $2500 + $5600 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost for a Petrol bike:$6000 + + $1440 + $6000 + $800 + $1400 + $3200 servicing
Total spent: $17260
Total to do again: $12560
Total to have used a petrol bike: $18840
Total distance travelled so far: 79'120km

mourns
Offline
Joined: 07/17/2012
Points: 5
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

Thanks for your comments Matt. You've given some good ideas of what people with similar models should be looking out for to avoid fire.
I know Vectrix Australia is long gone, it was the CEO of Vectrix North America Don Buckley who I contacted, he is also the CEO/President of Gold Peak Industries North America (GPINA).

I don't want anything from them other than concern for the people who have or are buying their product. If what you are saying is right about all models being lithium now and having individual cell temperature monitoring then hopefully for new models this is ok now.

I didn't have insurance for the bike itself. The fire didn't burn for more than 3-4minutes I think and most of it was the plastic and seat foam - billowing black toxic stuff. So I am hopeful the frame is not compromised. When I have got a bit more time hopefully soon I will start pulling it apart to check it out. I was leaving it in case the manufacturer or anyone else wanted to investigate it.

Maybe I can still resurrect it as a lithium conversion? Are you doing kits or are there any others you would recommend? Otherwise, yes there will be some parts available for those who need them.....

Russell

__________________

Russell

mourns
Offline
Joined: 07/17/2012
Points: 5
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

Thanks Full Charge - I hadn't been able to find any reference to fires and vectrix before this. I do remember that Vectrix Australia representatives went round performing a factory specified battery safety fix on all vehicles they had sold. It involved a firmware upgrade and an extra protective plate being installed over the batteries as I remember. I think it was in late 2008 and it was certainly done on my VX-1.
Cheers

__________________

Russell

antiscab
Offline
Joined: 07/07/2007
Points: 1584
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

mourns wrote:

If what you are saying is right about all models being lithium now and having individual cell temperature monitoring then hopefully for new models this is ok now.

I didn't have insurance for the bike itself. The fire didn't burn for more than 3-4minutes I think and most of it was the plastic and seat foam - billowing black toxic stuff. So I am hopeful the frame is not compromised. When I have got a bit more time hopefully soon I will start pulling it apart to check it out. I was leaving it in case the manufacturer or anyone else wanted to investigate it.

Maybe I can still resurrect it as a lithium conversion? Are you doing kits or are there any others you would recommend? Otherwise, yes there will be some parts available for those who need them.....

not sure about individual cell temp monitoring, but certainly voltage monitoring
A Lithium pack won't get to the fire stage without the voltage doing strange things (ignition temp for LiFePO4 is 273 deg C btw)

Charles may still be selling scavenged Vectrix,
basically its a brand new Vectrix with 0km on the clock, but missing battery, Motor controller and Charger
he used to sell them for $1000
grab the charger and MC out of your current Vectrix, and get a new battery, and you're in business

I do indeed sell Lithium conversion kits (two now actually, 40Ah is total $4000 and 70Ah is total $7000)
it would be worth having a look at the two threads

The only other conversion kit that I am aware of is one made in Italy, there's a thread for that aswell

The official Vectrix conversion kit isn't available to us mere mortals (you have to be a dealer, and there are none in Australia)

a second hand tested full set of nimh batteries with no bad cells are also available for around $1300

Matt

__________________

Daily Ride:
2007 Vectrix, modified with 42 x Thundersky 60Ah
Vectrix 60Ah Lithium Tyres Fuel Registration Insurance cycle analyst replacement TC Charger
conversion
Spent so far: $5800 + $7000 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost to do it again: $2500 + $5600 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost for a Petrol bike:$6000 + + $1440 + $6000 + $800 + $1400 + $3200 servicing
Total spent: $17260
Total to do again: $12560
Total to have used a petrol bike: $18840
Total distance travelled so far: 79'120km

Aircon
Offline
Joined: 12/23/2009
Points: 424
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

antiscab wrote:

I do indeed sell Lithium conversion kits (two now actually, 40Ah is total $4000 and 70Ah is total $7000)
it would be worth having a look at the two threads

Wait a minute....didn't you say the 70Ah kit is $US2500??

Full Charge
Offline
Joined: 10/29/2009
Points: 8
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

I don't know if any current Vectix monitor V-Voltage, but email Dana Decosta or Matt Hair. They are from the original tech guys and are still with the Vectix. Good guys who would try to help you out. I was admin that built the NA sales network from 06 to 09. we had 99 dealers at 4/2009.Great vision by the founder . We all worked our ases off, but $185M just wasn't e-nuff!Good luck !

Full Charge
Offline
Joined: 10/29/2009
Points: 8
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

I don't know if any current Vectix monitor V-Voltage, but email Dana Decosta or Matt Hair. They are from the original tech guys and are still with the Vectix. Good guys who would try to help you out. I was admin that built the NA sales network from 06 to 09. we had 99 dealers at 4/2009.Great vision by the founder . We all worked our ases off, but $185M just wasn't e-nuff!Good luck !

antiscab
Offline
Joined: 07/07/2007
Points: 1584
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

Aircon wrote:
antiscab wrote:

I do indeed sell Lithium conversion kits (two now actually, 40Ah is total $4000 and 70Ah is total $7000)
it would be worth having a look at the two threads

Wait a minute....didn't you say the 70Ah kit is $US2500??

the kit is yes, but you still have to buy the cells and a cycle analyst

I generally don't quote for the cells when selling internationally, as shipping from China to Australia then on to the final destination isn't particularly efficient

The cycle analyst is also made in Canada, it generally works out cheaper for an end user in the US to buy direct

Within Australia, it's the same deal, I leave the battery selling to other people who deal with larger volumes and can get a better price than I otherwise could

$7000 is what it works out to in total to install a 70Ah battery in a Vectrix using my kit
42 x 70AH cells is ~$4400

Matt

__________________

Daily Ride:
2007 Vectrix, modified with 42 x Thundersky 60Ah
Vectrix 60Ah Lithium Tyres Fuel Registration Insurance cycle analyst replacement TC Charger
conversion
Spent so far: $5800 + $7000 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost to do it again: $2500 + $5600 + $1720 + $960 + $320 + $720 + $140 + $600
Cost for a Petrol bike:$6000 + + $1440 + $6000 + $800 + $1400 + $3200 servicing
Total spent: $17260
Total to do again: $12560
Total to have used a petrol bike: $18840
Total distance travelled so far: 79'120km

R
R's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/18/2009
Points: 1381
Re: Vectrix caught fire less than 2 mins after temperature ...

Vectrix did a total recall (best they could)and shut down of bike deliveres.

Certainly, I experienced these recalls.
I bought my vectrix in may 2007, and had been recalled two times to replace the battery. the 3rd time the battery had problems and was replaced under 4 year warranty. Now i'm on my 4th pack, no warranty, and praying that the lairds firmaware will make it last a little longer than the previous packs.

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