Two researchers died last week after an experimental vehicle with retrofitted hybrid components caught fire in Naples, authorities announced Thursday.
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Maria Vittoria Prati, a researcher at Italy’s National Council of Research, died due to complications from third-degree burns on Monday, according to Reuters. Her colleague, a research apprentice named Fulvio Filace, died in the early hours of Thursday morning. The exact cause of the incident is still unknown and under investigation, Reuters continues:
Both Prati and Filace were hospitalised “in very serious conditions” but “there was more hope of saving” Filace “given his younger age,” the spokesperson, Pietro Rinaldi, said.
“But it was not enough,” he added.
Naples prosecutors are trying to find out what caused the explosion, but their investigation is for the moment not targeting any specific suspect, the ANSA news agency said.
Expressing “great shock and sorrow” for the deaths, the [National Council of Research] said Thursday it had started an internal audit and was cooperating with the investigations.
Earlier this week, the CNR paid tribute to Prati as “a brilliant researcher” and “an authority in the field of the study of emissions and the use of alternative fuels.”
The objective of the Life-Save project is to add hybrid drive components — including electric motors and batteries, as well as solar panels for an additional energy contribution — to internal-combustion-engine cars. Life-Save has received funding by the European Commission’s Life Program, which describes itself as the “EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action.” A University of Salerno group called eProInn (Energy and Propulsion Innovation) had a “lead role” in development, the news agency reported.
As of Thursday afternoon, Life-Save’s website was deactivated with a message of sympathy for Prati and Filace, quoted below and translated via Google:
We express our deepest and most painful condolences to the families of Eng. Maria Vittoria Prati and the undergraduate Fulvio Filace for the tragic epilogue. A prayer for them and heartfelt solidarity with all those who knew and loved them.
— The partners of the Life-Save project
Previously eProInn had been testing a Fiat Punto as its prototype, according to a snapshot of an earlier version of Life-Save’s website per Wayback Machine. This Punto had solar panels on its roof and hood, and the team claimed the kit tested in that car could “be applied to all conventional front-wheel drive vehicles,” and that “the investment costs are much lower than those for the purchase of a factory hybrid vehicle.”