Columbia electric buses under investigation after bus fire

4 days 19 hours 48 minutes ago May 17, 2017 May 17, 2017 Wednesday, May 17 2017 Wednesday, May 17, 2017 4:49:00 PM CDT in Continuous News
By: Finlay Walker, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA - COMO Connect is inspecting all of its electric buses after a bus fire May 15.

A COMO Connect press release said preliminary inspections show it was a tire fire most likely caused by an overheated brake system.

The bus maker is inspecting other buses in the series to make sure it was not a manufacturing problem. It has looked at two buses so far and said it hasn't found any problems.

Columbia Transit and Parking Manager Drew Brooks said the fire appears to be an isolated issue.

"It appears from our initial observations that it was probably a brake that overheated and then caught that tire on fire," Brooks said. "It wasn’t really anything that was related to the batteries or the electrical components of the bus, but something a little more mundane, something that we would typically see with both diesel or with CNG buses as well."

The Columbia Fire Department was sent to Wilson Street on May 15 for a call about the fire, which was in the wheel well of one of COMO Connect's electric buses.

The press release said passengers were getting off the bus as the tire popped. The driver continued to drive the empty bus to the next stop on the route before flames and smoke were visible.

There were no reported injuries.

Columbia has nine electric buses, including three new ones introduced this year.

Columbia does not own the buses; they are leased from the manufacturer, BYD Auto, through a 12-year agreement. The city pays $5,000 per bus each month.

The damaged bus will be shipped back to the manufacturer to be fixed. BYD Auto will cover the damage costs.

Brooks said the fire will not affect any bus routes.

"Since campus is out of session it’s really not quite a big deal," Brooks said. "We actually reduce our service by about half when campus isn’t in session."

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