Two Italian researchers have died after suffering third-degree burns from a Volkswagen Polo TDI hybrid prototype that exploded in Naples.
The pair were testing technology aimed at turning existing internal-combustion engines into hybrid vehicles by adding an electric motor, a battery pack, and solar panels.
According to Italian news outlet ANSA the vehicle was being driven by 66 year-old Maria Prati and fellow researcher, 25 year-old Fulvio Filance, both of whom worked for Italy’s National Council of Research (CNR).
The newspaper reports the vehicle exploded and caught fire on the Naples Ring Road, initially leading both researchers to be hospitalised with third-degree burns.
Ms Prati sustained burns to 90 per cent of her body, and later succumbed to her injuries. Mr Filace was given a better chance at surviving given his age, however he also passed away days after the accident.
“We hoped to the end that Fulvio could be saved,” said Fabio Murena, professor and husband of Ms Prati, according to ANSA.
“We express our condolences to family and friends.”
Prosecutors from the Republic of Naples and the Investigative Unit of the Provincial Command of Naples are investigating the incident to understand what led to the explosion.
Since the incident the project’s website has been “disabled”. The project was run by the Life-Save project and funded by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme.