Nobe Cars Investors
It's always something

A Troubling Fire
at Nobe Cars

The fire at Nobe Cars left many people wondering
about more than just the cause.

Contents

  1. Overview & Introduction
      Was the fire the problem or did the fire hide problems?
  2. Was the fire an accident?  
      Before & After photographs
  3. Who determined the cause of the fire?
  4. Multiple locations of hot spots from one fire.  
  5. What did firefighters find when they arrived?  
  6. Evidence of batteries and other components not present.
  7. Three cars, widely varying levels of damage.
       One fairly intact, one without any body or innards, and one completely missing.
  8. A roomful of tools, but none can be seen after the fire.   
       Where did they go?
  9. New factory opened in more than record-breaking time? 
       How is that possible?

News Articles on the fire
:   Five Estonian news reports, including videos and many more photographs.  Of interest is how many reporters tie in the timing of the fire with Nobe's financial problems.
Was the fire the problem or did the fire hide problems?

Up In Smoke

In the dark of the night on October 4, 2019, the garage complex housing Nobe Cars in Estonia was engulfed in flames.  Roman Muljar, Nobe’s CEO, stated to reporters [see article #2 below]:  "It was a big blow. Our first two historical cars were destroyed”.  For someone who had just ‘lost everything’, a further blow to a startup company that was reportedly already having severe financial problems, Muljar’s optimism strained belief, and the reporter noted how quickly he shifted to pointing out that "You'll soon find out. We are doing well."  

Journalists, and Muljar, attributed the fire to problems with the building’s electrical wiring.  The communications manager at the local rescue center postulated that the fire was probably started by an air source heat pump, but did not elaborate any further. In another discussion, much later, Muljar had a very different explanation, saying that he had updated most of the wiring in the facility with the exception of just the one section of wall where he claims the fire started.

The nature of the fire, along with the multiple Estonian news agencies noting how the timing of the blaze coincides with Nobe’s financial difficulties, raises numerous questions as to: the fire’s origin, what was actually in the building at the time, how it seems possible that some of the building's contents may have somehow survived to reappear elsewhere, and that a move to another facility said to have been in the works before the fire started. 

Engineer Meelis Merilo explained to reporters that Nobe was planning to move soon anyway and “since one room was left untouched [by the fire], I understand that for the time being it will still continue there."  Although he is listed in a Nobe investor pitch deck as “Founder and Head of Engineering”, the reporter then stresses that Merilo asked him “to emphasize that he is a small shareholder in Nobe and does not actively participate in the company's work on a daily basis.”  In that same article, when Muljar is interviewed, he now contradicts his head engineer regarding their plans to move, and now the official line is that a move had not been considered: “Whether we do it here or somewhere else, I can't say” and suddenly he “had no more time to talk to the journalist.”

Seeing a number of comments around the web that suggest the fire may have been deliberately started, and seeing how Muljar addressed the fire in an Estonian EER television interview in 2021 by stating that the ['prototypes and many documents burned up'] “they were uninsured, yes” —insinuating he did not receive money from the fire— raises serious questions about the nature of the fire itself, and how his explanation possibly ignores many other potential motivating factors for causing a fire. Multiple news reports included below, and searches on the Web, provide little information, if any, on any investigation into the fire.  For this reason, we turned to a seasoned fire investigator from North America for unbiased insight.  

The following are the fire investigator’s observations and the questions raised in reviewing the Nobe October 4, 2019 fire and its investigation in Estonia, including observations from an authority on Electric Vehicles. Questions raised and insights given by each will be indicated with their titles.

Section A

Investigator: Was this an Accidental fire or an Incendiary Fire?

(An incendiary fire is one that “has been deliberately ignited under circumstances in which the person knows the fire should not be ignited”).

Fire Investigator:  The only true way to make that determination is by determining what the cause of the fire was. There are often circumstantial bits of evidence that are typically associated with incendiary fires. The following are questions that could be further investigated in Estonia.

Fire Investigator: Was insurance increased shortly before the fire?

  • What does Muljar mean that Nobe “had no insurance”? On what? The building? The prototype vehicles? The tools? The business?

  • Did any production machinery in the facility,  such as a CNC machine, have insurance?

  • Was any insurance company at all involved with any aspect of this tragedy?

  • Another question raised from this is: would there have been anyone else to have benefited from the occurrence of the fire? 

  • Did the owner of the building have insurance? 

  • In standard business practice, most building leases will require the lessee (Nobe) to get their own insurance and indemnify the lessor (landlord) against damage a lessee might create.The lessor will keep general liability insurance. However, if the landlord’s property causes damage to the tenant’s belongings, as is the case here, the tenant would be eligible to be compensated.  What happened here? 

  • Could there have been benefits other than monetary to a fire destroying prototypes, records, plans or lack thereof, equipment, etc.?  For example, could there have been something one would not want discovered, such as:

  • Nobe’s lack of significant progress? In numerous interviews, Muljar had made more and more promises that were never fulfilled about when production would start, when and where factories would be built, and more.
  • What if there may have been no engineering plans in place? In some interviews, Nobe claims everything was lost, in others they have the plans in hand.  ERR news reported “there were basically no drawings or documentation to even start preparing for mass production, which could result in a safe and compliant machine.”  
  • Were there even prototypes that were ready for manufacturing?  Other manufacturers go through multiple levels of prototype vehicles before they are ready to begin manufacture, while Nobe has claimed to have been ‘ready’ without ever even fully completing a first prototype.
  • Were there issues with the cars themselves? (e.g. performance, safety, undersized, cars were not operational or were made incorrectly)  An expert on EVs in a 2021 Estonian television interview shared that the engineering team in Detroit was shocked to find that when the only Nobe prototype shipped to them arrived that it “did not operate”.
  • Were promises made to investors that could not have been kept with these cars? As an example, on a certain level of car functionality, a delivery date of cars just a ‘short time’ away, and the building of cars at locations around the world. Could this have been really achieved by the plans, vehicles and preparedness of the cars that went into the factory fire at that time?

Fire Inspector: Where valuable items were moved out of the building just before the fire (or to a part of the building that was not expected to burn)?

  • Prior to the fire in a photo, there appears to be three Nobe “cars” in the facility. The tools and a computer only appear to be present in the Before photo.  

Before the Fire at the Nobe Cars Factory of Amazing ThingsTorched Nobe 100GT GT100

Before and after picture of Nobe Cars fire showing 2 charred Nobe 100GTs

These photographs raise questions:

  • At what point was this photograph taken?

  • What happened to one of three cars? Only two ‘burned’?  Where is the third?

  • Where are the tools that were in the facility before the fire?

Fire Investigator: Was the security system not turned on whereas it is always turned on every other night? 

Fire Investigator: More often than not, incendiary fires are ignited with gasoline, just to be sure that the fire gets going quickly and spreads well. In this case, in a room with electric cars, finding a sample of gasoline where the fire started would be a clue. 

  • What reports are available in Estonia regarding the origination of the fire?

  • Did someone in Estonia check to see if an investigation was done on the use of gasoline or other substances?

  • Was there an security system in the place for the building? Was there electronic surveillance and cameras set up? 

Fire Investigator: Was the company experiencing financial problems?

Yes, Nobe's financial difficulties were reported in conjunction with the fire by several Estonian news agencies reported by several news agencies in Estonia in conjunction with the fire.

  • An observation from the Estonian news media was that they believed the financial difficulty Nobe was experiencing was an important point to communicate on their coverage of Nobe. Several news outlets tied the timing of the fire together with Nobe’s financial problems.

Section B

Investigator: Who determined the origin and cause of the fire?

Fire Investigator:  Practically every fire department has to determine a cause for a fire - or to call it undetermined, or to have it further investigated by the Fire Marshal's office. A standard procedure for determining a cause first involves determining the origin of the fire. If one can narrow down the area of origin where the fire originated, then one can evaluate all ignition sources in that area, analyze them, and hopefully are left with only one competent ignition source.  Once the Fire Marshal's office completes its investigation, a private/third party investigation firm often comes in (hired by building insurance of the complex, tenant insurance, the owner of the building) and replicates the process that fire department did. This raised the following questions:

Fire InvestigatorWhat were the investigative procedures initiated from the Estonian fire department?

Fire InvestigatorWhat did the Estonian fire department determine the cause of the fire and in what area did it get started? Is there a written report that actually determines the fire? Or was it a private investigator providing data? Or another source?

  • One Newspaper article provides information from a communications manager of the Estonian Põhja Rescue Center, Jane Gridassov, who specified that the fire in the U-shaped building on Telliskivi Street in Tallinn was probably started by an air source heat pump. This manager did not elaborate any further. What happened?

  • Muljar stated in another discussion that the fire may have started in the one section of wall where he had failed to update the wiring.  Who was the electrician? 

  • A newspaper source reported that the fire started at 3:58am in the morning. Was work being conducted in the facility that afternoon? That evening? Was there anyone else in the facility that night? Why would there be someone in the break room of a factory workshop at 3:00am?! Any security cameras on the facility?

Fire InvestigatorSince there was an owner of the building from which Roman Muljar rented from, was there any private/third party fire investigation done?   

  • If not, why not? 

Section C

Can the intensity of a fire caused by an electrical failure have separate concentrated hot spots? 

Did the firefighting impact the fire flow?

Fire Investigator: Just because it may be an electrically initiated fire does not necessarily cause it to be concentrated in one area. This would be more a factor of the fuel load present in the area of origin. 

Fire Investigator: Fire suppression operations definitely have an impact on fire patterns and it is very important to get an idea of how the fire was fought, though ideally we get the notes from the crews who attended. They often break windows to allow smoke out so they can see what they are doing, but this can also alter the ventilation conditions of the fire and cause increased burning in certain areas. Also spraying of water from the hose can also entrain air and create different flow paths for the fire. 

Fire InvestigatorCan someone get records from the crews who attended to fire on the impact of fire patterns?

Fire InvestigatorAre there any eyewitnesses?


Could a fire caused by an electrical failure create multiple hot spots?

Nobe Factory Fire

Multiple hotspots in Nobe fire

Fire Investigator: Under certain conditions that might happen. Depending on what fails and ignites, it is possible that the electrical failures propagate upstream along the circuits and multiple faults are observed along one circuit. 

Section D

In what condition was the building found?

The fire appears to be venting out in two spots. What does this mean?
Nobe Factory Burned

Nobe burned out of factory

Fire Investigator: In the photo above, one sees in the area circled in red that the fire was venting out from this doorway. The next one, circled in yellow has some venting patterns as well, though less obvious because it is not black. This can be an indication that the siding above this opening had gotten hotter and had burned the soot off. Another pattern to support this is that the soffit/fascia/roof above this window opening appears to be consumed, whereas it is mostly in place above the door. All other windows/doors visible in this image show undamaged siding, meaning they were likely not broken. This brings out questions:

Fire Investigator: Did the open doorway have windows in it that failed early in the fire? 

Fire Investigator: Did the door open during the fire? Perhaps due to fire fighters on arrival? 

Fire Investigator: What conditions did the firefighters see when they arrived?  

Section E

Can lithium batteries be seen in the Nobe car in the After photo?


Batteries and internal components do not appear in car

Fire Investigator: We recognize that lithium batteries don't survive fires well. The interior of them will likely be destroyed in the fire, although the rolled up anode/cathode might still be visible in the remains. If the batteries were a cylindrical type (like the ones used in Teslas), the metal can that houses the battery will survive the fire, though they will be scattered all about. A lithium battery, whether it fails from a thermal runaway or from fire exposure, will produce a chemical cocktail of flammable gasses as a product of its failure. If there is no ignition source immediately present, the gasses can build up and be sufficient to cause an explosion. If the fire is present, they will simply be burned up (though rather impressively). 

Authority on Electric Vehicles:  The lithium batteries supposedly used by Nobe were like bricks - i.e. lithium bricks that are banded together to form a pack. When they heat up, they expand and distort ultimately to become a mass.  We would also have some sort of battery management system, controller, etc as part of the overall drive chain. All of this would have to be in the general debris area of the chassis. In addition components of the interior, seats, dashboard, steering wheel, etc.should/would be present. Evidence of such debris does not seem apparent in these photos. Was there an incendiary of any kind? Was there an explosion? Signs of this type remain a possibility and go unanswered. 

Section F

One car with nothing left but the frame, one fairly intact, and one completely missing.

Note that the vehicle in the foreground appears to have suffered far more damage. How could this happen?

Where is the third car?

Fire Investigator: That may be so, but are the bodies of the two cars the same material? If one is fiberglass or aluminum, and the other is aluminum or steel (I'm guessing due to weight savings that steel would not be used here), they will obviously behave differently. Having said this, if this image is the interior shot of what [was shown] earlier, then it makes sense, because the windows had not failed at the far end of the room, whereas the fire had vented near to where the image was taken in this second shot. Something to support the fire damage is a faint red line I drew on the second image, in the top left (see above). The particle board seems to show decreasing damage as you move further down the room.  Something to consider is whether the intensity of burning at this end of the room was due to the fire originated here, or, whether it a matter of ventilation effects, where the fresh oxygen from the open doorway caused more intense burning at this end. Most likely, the fire did not start at the far end of the room, based on these patterns that were already mentioned here and that the windows at the far end would likely have broken.

  • Observation from an Authority on Electric Vehicles: While fiberglass and aluminum will behave differently from one another in a fire, one thing to consider is whether both cars in the photo were made from the same material.  One would expect to see evidence of the body of the car being charred or damaged in a fire, as it appears to be the case with the second car in the background. The body of the car in the foreground appears to have completely vaporized, leaving behind no charring, residue, or any remains at all, except for the tubular frame that we see. Even if the fire had started near the car that vanished,  how could the intensity of a fire stay localized just on the one car itself while the particle board walls right next to it remained virtually intact? 

  • Other questions: Which of the Nobe prototypes is missing from the photo? Was there a frame with no body shell on it in the fire?

Section G

Where did all the tools go?

With a wall and rolling chests full of tools before the fire, where are they now? 

Note that the tools are nowhere to be seen in the After photograph.

Shop cabinet and tools appear to be missing

Fire Investigator: The "work related tools" that appear to be missing may have fallen off the wall due to the wall being damaged by the fire or by the hose stream – or they were taken away prior to the fire. As for the missing particle board at the end, I think that came off later in the fire, or after the fire, otherwise that area would likely have seen more significant damage (and insulation would be soot covered). The fire service often pulls down walls and ceilings during the overhaul phase of suppression, ensuring that no fire has started burning in hidden cavities. Whether the computer fell off the table during the fire, or was not present, can't be answered without more photos.

This raises questions:

  • How many tools were in the facility before the fire?

  • How many tools were found in the fire, whether on the wall or damaged on the floor?

  • Were there tools from this factory that appeared in the new erected factory 62 days after the fire on December 6, 2019? 

  • What records are available to review on what had occurred with the tools?

  • What happened to the computer that was on the desk of the room?

  • Where is the rolling tool chest visible in the Before picture?

Section H

A new factory up, open, and completely outfitted in just two months?

A new factory was in operation and the opening night party, a party with glowing comments on social media, occurred just 62 Days after the Nobe Facility Fire.

How possible, or even probable, to find and outfit a new shop in 62 days after a fire, while planning and pulling off an opening night extravaganza at the same time, especially if your company is in dire financial straights?

Was Nobe planning to move or was it sheer coincidence? As mentioned in the beginning of this article, Meelis Merilo, Nobe's Lead Engineer, stated in an interview, that the new location had already been in the works, then sought to distance himself from both the company and knowledge of the company while CEO Roman Muljar contradicted him while at the same time making predictions with unfounded optimism.

The new facility appeared to be an upgrade to the facility that was burned. What money and resources could Nobe have been used for the new facility and to accomplish this task in 62 days?

Were there any prototype Nobe cars in the new facility after the fire? What tools and machinery were present in the new building?

There are a number of questions, some which might be easily explained and others without answers. We hope that this may open the door to further questions and investigation.  There are far too many to be brushed aside due to “coincidence”. There are far more questions than answers, creating reason for concern.

Journalists Raise even more questions

News Reports on the
Fire at Nobe Cars

Five news articles on the fire at the Nobe Cars factory.  All five thought it important to tie the timing of the fire to the financial distress of the company.  All show the players at Nobe either retracting or downplaying their story, contradicting what was already said, being unwilling to discuss or ending the interview at least somewhat abruptly.
...he [was] asking to emphasize that he is a small shareholder in Nobe and does not actively participate in the company's work on a daily basis.

— Noted by a newspaper reporter on Meelis Merilo,
Nobe's Lead Engineer, investor, and board member.


Most relevant and puzzling phrases will be emphasized in red as without further comment to maintain the manner in which the journalists wished to let the facts speak for themselves.

Contents

Top    

ARTICLE One

Nobe Cars workshop burnt down in Telliskivi

Editor: Sandra Lepik   October 4, 2019

The premises of the Estonian electric car Nobe burst into flames at around four o'clock this morning. Nobe operated in a U-shaped complex of buildings, which included garages and an industrial building.

Tonight at 3:58am, the Emergency Response Centre received a report of a fire in Telliskivi Street in the northern part of Tallinn. The rescuers who arrived on the scene started to extinguish the fire and to contain the spread of the fire to an adjacent office building and a furniture store. 

 

"We drove out to the highest, or fourth, level of departure. This means that we went with a large force, which in turn means that there is a lot of work to do," explained Jane Gridassov, Communications Manager of the Northern Rescue Centre. "The building was burning very close to a residential and office building that was next to it, and on the other side was a furniture building, which meant that in addition to the extinguishing work, we had to protect the adjacent buildings."

The fire caused the poisoning of one person who was in the break room of the production building. "He came out and was checked over by the ambulance - in fact he was fine and did not need hospitalisation."

Roman Muljar, the developer of the Nobe electric car, has recently tried to find investors through crowdfunding to launch larger-scale production. However, the search for a backer has not yet borne fruit. Muljar did not want to speculate on the cause of the fire. 

"The removal work finished a little after seven o'clock this morning and in fact it is only today that the investigators will go there. They are inspecting and looking over the scene and collecting materials," Gridassov said, adding that it was not yet possible to say what might have started the fire.

The occupants of three houses near the fire were evacuated from their homes while the fire was being extinguished. In the houses next to the one affected by the fire, life went on as usual.

pealinn.ee/2019/10/04/video-telliskivis-poles-nobe-autode-tookoda


Article Two

VIDEO and PHOTOS | Estonian car maker survived the fire: pity about the two cars that burnt down

Tanel Saarmann     October 7, 2019

Early last Friday morning, a garage complex at the beginning of Telliskivi Street caught fire. It was also home to the small production plant of the Estonian car manufacturer NOBE. Roman Muljar, head of NOBE, said in a comment to Ärilehele that two historic prototypes had burned down, but the car maker was continuing. "We are waiting for the result of the expert's report," says Muljar, making a hasty point adding that NOBE's development will continue.

"It was a big blow, our first two test pieces, historic cars, were destroyed," Muljar says in a sad tone. The NOBE team would have liked to give them to a museum in the future as the first NOBE prototypes. However, the team has continued to develop the car in the meantime and a third model is already in the making. "We still have all the drawings in digital form," says Muljar.

During the summer, we heard that NOBE was failing to raise money in crowdfunding. There was little interest. Muljar says news is coming soon, with a number of contracts being signed.

"You'll soon find out. We're doing well," concludes Muljar.

The Emergency Response Centre received a report of a fire on Telliskivi Street at 3:58am on Friday night. A U-shaped complex of buildings was on fire, which included the garage-manufacturing buildings.

Gallery 1 Click on thumbnails to enlarge

Gallery 2   Click on thumbnails to enlargeClick on thumbnails to enlarge

The Nobe electric car is being developed by Roman Muljar's company, and the company's promotional stars include Peter Vesterbacka and Evelin Ilves.

arileht.delfi.ee/artikkel/87674297/video-ja-fotod-polengu-ule-elanud-eesti-autotootja-kahju-on-kahest-autost-mis-ara-polesid

    Article three

    Gallery: Nobe production building and garage damaged by fire

    Authors: Liis Treimann, Pille Ivask • October 4, 2019

    The production building and garage of Nobe, a manufacturer of three-wheeled electric cars on Telliskivi Street in Tallinn, caught fire early this morning.

    Roman Muljar, the leader of Nobe, declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation. Äripäev has previously written about Nobe's financial difficulties. The carmaker raised money through the Indiegogo platform but received just over €12 000 instead of the €91 000 it had hoped for.

    www.toostusuudised.ee/uudised/2019/10/04/galerii-nobe-tootmishoone-ja-garaaz-said-tules-kannatada

    Gallery  Click on thumbnails to enlarge

    Article four

    Fire-ravaged Estonian carmaker: full steam ahead!

    Lennart Ruuda   October 7, 2019

    Estonian electric car manufacturer Nobe's production and office building burned down last Friday. Although the damage is extensive, the start-up is not about to throw in the towel and promises to come out with a new model soon

    "What is certain is that the fire did not start in the car," said Roman Muljar, the owner and CEO of Nobe. Jane Gridassov, communications manager at the Northern Rescue Centre, said the fire in the U-shaped building on Telliskivi Street in Tallinn was probably caused by an air heat pump. She did not elaborate further.

    Muljar added that although the damage is extensive, there is no sense of disaster. Although Nobe's first two prototype cars both burned up, Muljar said they have the blueprints and moulds to produce new cars. "We're going full steam ahead. Whether we'll do it here or somewhere else, I don't know," added Muljar, who had no more time to talk to a journalist.

    Meelis Merilo, Nobe's small shareholder and technical advisor, admitted that the biggest damage was to the first two cars that burned up. "After all, they were pure craftsmanship," he noted.

    On the positive side, he pointed out that Nobel was planning to develop a third prototype anyway, which Merilo said would be much better than the previous cars. "The experience and the intellectual property didn't burn out, so we are already thinking about a new car," he added.

    According to Merilo, they were planning to move soon anyway. "However, as one of the rooms was left untouched, I understand that for the time being we will still continue there," he said, stressing that he is a small shareholder in Nobe and does not actively participate in the company's day-to-day operations.

    The money is trickling in

    Although Nobe has been actively promoting itself at every turn, the company's performance hasn't been the best lately. For example, in July this year they launched a campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise €90 000, but only 13% of the target has been met.

    Nobe's owner, Seanest OÜ, has a tax debt of €1,700, according to the Commercial Register.

    Nobe's founder Roman Muljar has said in the past that his idea is to create something new but timeless. "The Nobe is the kind of car that everyone would want to try, just because of its stylish and distinctive look. It's an environmentally friendly and powerful electric car that catches the eye and provides a memorable driving experience."

    The Nobe car can accommodate three passengers at a time, and there's plenty of room for luggage. Combined, the main battery and the mobile battery allow a maximum range of 270 kilometres on a single charge and a top speed of 110 kilometres per hour. The special electric Nobe models on sale are available in three different colours: blue, red and black. 

    majandus.postimees.ee/6795974/tulekahjust-rasitud-eesti-autotootja-jatkame-taie-hooga

    Article Five

    Gallery: Estonia's electric car Nobe's facilities went up in flames overnight

    Owner: "Now we think about how to move forward"

    Agaate Antson, Reet Pärgma   October 4, 2019


    Gallery 1 Click on thumbnails to enlarge

    Gallery 2 Click on thumbnails to enlarge

    At 3.58 a.m. tonight, the alarm centre received a report that an office building on Telliskivi Street in Tallinn was burning with an uncontained blaze.

    According to a spokesman for the Rescue Board, a U-shaped building complex with a garage and production buildings burned. The buildings are the production buildings and garage of the Estonian three-wheeled electric car Nobe. The adjacent furniture building was also in danger, but was saved.

    Rescuers evacuated three people from a nearby building, one of whom had carbon monoxide poisoning. During the night, traffic was disrupted at the beginning of Telliskivi Street due to the fire. 

    The fire was extinguished at 7:17 in the morning. The exact circumstances and causes of the incident will be determined in further investigations.

    Roman Muljar, owner and leader of Nobe Cars, told Postime that he had been on the scene all night. He heard about the fire at around 4am.

    "Now we are thinking about how to proceed," he said and had to end the call due to other matters.

    Display of Nobe prototype   Photo by Eero Vabamägi/ Postimees

    In July, Äripäev wrote that Nobe is in trouble: money is lacking at every turn to jumpstart production, and even the campaign launched a while ago on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo refused to take off. A crowdfunding campaign was launched in mid-July to raise $100,000, or €89,743. To date, only 13%, or €12,068, has been raised. In addition, according to credit information, the company has outstanding tax debts of €1,683.

    Display of Nobe prototypes    Photo: Eero Vabamägi / PostimeesBlock title

    majandus.postimees.ee/6793571/galerii-eesti-elektriauto-nobe-ruumid-polesid-oosel-lahtise-leegiga