A Lordstown Motors Endurance electric pickup mule conducting testing—ahead of a small production run by the end of this year—burned to a crisp at the side of the road on January 13th in Farmington Hills outside of Detroit, Michigan. “We’re confident” this won’t happen again, Ryan Hallett, spokesman for Lordstown Motors told the Detroit Free Press. “It was human error.”
Thankfully, all of the engineers in the truck were able to get out without suffering any harm or injury.
In the rush to get an electric truck to market ahead of any of the four other manufacturers which have promised to deliver one this year, Lordstown apparently owns up to cutting corners and pushing through the pressure. Electric vehicles are largely quite safe, which I say as an EV owner with full confidence in the technology. With many new EV startups coming to market, however, it’s possible that you’ll see more of this in the near future as these companies don’t have the engineering expertise of legacy automakers.
In fairness to the Endurance, this was a prototype and it was built specifically for the intent of developing a better production-spec truck. Earlier this week Lordstown began building of a series of beta-level pre-production pickups. These trucks will continue the hard work of near-production testing to ensure the truck meets the standards of the industry and its consumers. Everything from NVH testing to crash testing will be conducted with these betas.
Here’s how the vehicle was found, according to a Farmington Hills police and firefighters report, as relayed to The Detroit Free Press:
Engineers took the mule out for a test drive on public roads a little after midnight on Jan. 13. By 12:29 a.m., Farmington Hills police and firefighters were sent to 12 Mile near Copper Creek Lane, where the vehicle was engulfed in flames, the grass around it was aflame and tree branches burned above it, the report said.
“The vehicle was electric and magnesium was noted from water reaction below the rear seats in the passenger compartment,” the report stated. “Hood was completely melted upon arrival and doors were open.”
The wind chill that night made it feel like 22 degrees as the three Lordstown Motors engineers stood nearby. They told fire officials they had been test driving the vehicle when it began to have mechanical issues. The driver pulled to the side of the road, “he then noticed the vehicle was on fire,” the report said.
The engineers had made it only a mile-and-a-third from Lordstown Motors Research and Development Center in Farmington Hills, where they work alongside some 130 others.
Interestingly, the deputy chief for the Farmington Hills Fire Department, Jason Olszewski, told the Freep that the origin of the fire was in the “engine area, running gear, wheel area,” presumably up in the truck’s front trunk. It’s just funny to think of an electric vehicle having an engine area. It’s safe to say that we still have a long way to go to get our nation’s fire departments up to speed with electric vehicles.
A Lordstown spokesperson told the paper that the nature of the prototype’s hand-assembly construction is what must have caused the fire. A forensic investigation will be needed to determine exactly what caused it, but with most of the truck having burned away, it’ll be tough to point to an exact cause. The fire department released the vehicle back to Lordstown for examination.
“There was an error in the building process that caused something to lead to that fire,” Hallett said. “It wasn’t like the battery exploded, but something went wrong in the hand-build process that led to what caused the fire to start and we’re not going to comment beyond that.”
From this point on, all Lordstown products will be built on an automated assembly line, which should limit any further human errors from causing further Endurance trucks.