The vehicle was a Volkswagen Polo which was testing the possibility of combining an electric motor with batteries powered by solar panels. The prototype used as part of a project called “Life-Save” which given the circumstances was poorly named.
Maria Vittoria Prati and left trainee student Fulvio Filace were associated with the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche research institute and were traveling on the Naples ring road when the explosion took place.
Following the blast, the victims were rushed to the Antonio Cardarelli Hospital with serious burns and died later of their injuries.
The car involved in this incident was part of an ongoing research project on engine hybridization, undertaken by the Motor Institute of the CNR in collaboration with the University of Salerno.
The cause of the explosion is a mystery, although some form of battery explosion seems possible. Such incidents have been observed with electric and hybrid cars, including certain Tesla models.
The incidents are becoming so common that some shipping companies are refusing to transport electric vehicles.
The dangers associated with EVs have also led to some governments taking actions to protect the public. It was reported last year that a state-owned public transport operator in Paris, France, the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, pulled out 149 electric buses from its fleet after two of them exploded within the same month.
The Public Prosecutor of Naples has initiated an investigation to shed light on the circumstances surrounding explosion.