A prototype solar-powered hybrid car that was being developed in Italy exploded last week, killing its two occupants.
The vehicle was equipped with an aftermarket kit made by Life-Save, funded by the European Union (EU), that is designed to convert a conventional petrol-engined car into a solar-powered hybrid.
When the system was being tested on a Volkswagen Polo by two researchers, scholar Maria Vittoria Prati and student Fulvio Filace, it exploded and left them with severe burns to which they later succumbed in hospital.
An investigation into what caused the explosion has been launched by the Italy’s National Research Council (CNR) which aims “to reconstruct the causes of the grave event,” reports the Financial Times.
The Council described Prati as a “brilliant researcher” and an “authority in the study of emissions and the use of alternative fuels”.
“The loss of two lives in such dramatic circumstances profoundly hits the scientific community in every part of Italy,” says CNR.
The project, which has received €1.8 million in funding from the EU, was started by Life-Save to give people a more affordable way to drive an electrified vehicle without having to purchase a new hybrid.
“We express our most lively and mournful condolences to the families of senior researcher Maria Vittoria Prati and of Fulvio Filace for the tragic events,” Life-Save stated on its website.
“We offer a prayer for them and heartfelt solidarity to all those who knew and loved them.”
The company has temporarily shut down following the incident.