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The ongoing debate over the safety of transporting electric vehicles is gaining new attention with reports that the owners and insurance company for the car carrier FELICITY ACE are suing Volkswagen Group blaming the auto company for the 2022 fire that destroyed the vessel. According to a report from Bloomberg, the German auto group has been named by the plaintiffs in two suits filed in the German courts over the loss of the vessel.

The 17,700 dwt car carrier built in 2005 departed from Emden, Germany to Davisville, Rhode Island, loaded with approximately 4,000 vehicles. Off the Azores on February 16, 2022, the captain ordered the crew of 22 to abandon ship as a fire believed to have started on the car decks spread throughout the vessel. Within days it appeared the fire had spread from end to end of the 656-foot vessel and despite efforts to tow the ship, it was lost after drifting in the Atlantic for two weeks.

The first of the suits was brought nearly a year ago in the court in Stuttgart, Germany, where Porsche is headquartered while the second suit was filed in Braunschweig targeting the parent company Volkswagen Group, which owns Porsche. Of the 3,965 cars aboard, the largest portion was believed to be Porsche, Audi, and VW, but reports said there were also cars from Bentley and Lamborghini aboard.

The lawsuits are reported to involve Mitsui O.S.K. Lines which operated the Felicity Ace. Insurer Allianz, which has been outspoken on the dangers of EV fires, is also reported to be a plaintiff in the suits. “The plaintiffs claim that the fire originated from the lithium-ion battery of a Porsche model and allege VW failed to inform them of the danger and necessary precautions needed to transport such vehicles,” according to Bloomberg. They report that both cases have not progressed in the courts while there have been settlement talks.

Reports at the time of the casualty speculated that the overall value of the loss could be $438 million according to the Russell Group. They estimated that cars represented a $400 million loss with Volkswagen having the largest portion of the cars aboard the ship. Russell estimated Volkswagen’s loss would total at least $155 million.Volkswagen confirmed to buyers after the vessel was lost that its highly sought-after ID.4 electric SUVs were among the cars lost telling buyers that they would be revising production plans to prioritize replacements. The group was also reported to have had 1,100 Porsches and 189 Bentleys aboard the FELICITY ACE.

Allianz has issued several reports citing the fire danger from EVs and highlighting fires as one of the primary causes of maritime claims the company experienced. They have called for increased fire safety standards and precautions in transporting the vehicles, which have also been blamed for other causalities.

Pictures surfaced during the 2023 salvage operation for another car carrier, the Fremantle Highway, showing electric vehicles still smoldering weeks after the fire was extinguished aboard the ship. The nature of the batteries makes the fire more difficult to fight and increases the danger of a runaway situation aboard the vessels.

Source : Maasmond Maritime / MAREX