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After GM Volt Fire, NHTSA Warns About Lithium Battery Fire Risk

November 17, 2011







Lithium Battery Fire Risk

A lithium-ion battery-powered car is less safe than a conventional gasoline engine car

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is re-examining the safety of lithium-ion batteries that are used in electric vehicles, after a fire involving a GM Volt.  A number of automakers manufacture these plug-in electric vehicles.

The incident occurred when the Volt was parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center in Wisconsin.  The car had been parked after a test crash that had taken place in September, just three weeks earlier.  The GM Volt plug-in electrical hybrid car also comes with a gas engine.

There are no further details about this particular fire, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now turning its attention to other similar electric hybrid vehicles manufactured by GM and other companies.  A number of other automakers including Ford, Nissan, and others manufacture electrical vehicles with lithium-ion batteries, or have plans to market these soon.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is warning these automakers about the risk of fire involving these lithium-ion batteries.

The Volt batteries are supplied by South Korean company LG Chem Ltd.  According to LG Chem, it is aware of the GM Volt lithium-ion battery fire, and will be working closely with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and General Motors in the investigation into the fire.  General Motors has already released a damage control statement saying that the Volt is a highly safe car, and that the company is working together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the investigation.

There has been a flurry of activity in the electrical car segment, since Pres. Obama made clear his intention to promote the use of electric vehicles on American roads in order to reduce dependence on foreign.  The US Energy Department has been encouraging automakers to invest in electric auto technology, and develop electrical vehicles using lithium-ion batteries.  Several of these companies have obtained loans for the development of electrical auto technology.

As of now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is not saying that a lithium-ion battery-powered car is less safe than a conventional gasoline engine car.  However, more details will emerge as the investigations proceed.  Safety concerns involving electric hybrid vehicles could derail the president’s plans to have more electrical vehicles on the road.  That’s the reason why it’s not just Los Angeles personal injury lawyers, but also the federal administration and energy groups who will be looking at this investigation carefully.

Lithium-ion batteries have long been used in consumer electronics for providing the kind of power that electric vehicles require.  However, some tests have found that the current crop of lithium ion batteries do have a tendency to overheat, possibly increasing the risk of a fire.

Posted by Robert Reeves at 11:29 am - no comments
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