A series of very public Li-ion defect related incidents have caused the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) decision to hold a meeting with automakers and battery suppliers with regards to the safety of the new technology.
“The purpose of this symposium is to bring together relevant stakeholders to share information on the status of safety activities related to the use of Li-ion batteries in vehicles designed for on-road use,” NHTSA explained.
Public concerns were raised last year when a Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric vehicle had ignited following a NHTSA crash test. Then, the reliability of battery packs were put into question when a brand-new Fisker Karma EV had inexplicably stopped working during testing with Consumer Reports. In more recent news, a prototype battery extreme testing related explosion occurred at the Warren, Michigan GM Technical Center laboratory, injuring five employees.
Investigations on the Volt have found that GM’s electric vehicle is no more of a fire risk than cars with conventional gasoline engines. The Fisker defect was caused by faulty calibration of battery supplier A123’s battery welding process. Finally, the GM Tech Center incident was caused by a prototype and certainly not intended for production. None of these incidents indicate that Li-ion batteries are particularly unsafe, but amid the negative publicity, the public and the administration are struggling to understand the nature of the technology.
What’s more, supporters of the electric vehicle blame the safety issues surrounding Li-ion batteries as the cause of the lackluster sales numbers of electric cars. Both the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf missed the 10,000 unit sales target last year.
NHTSA is looking to clear the air when it conducts the safety meeting on May 18 in Washington, D.C.