Questioning Electric Car Battery Safety

Electric cars may present different hazards than conventional design. Recent crash tests as well as one report of a battery fire suggest that the present car design may have to be improved. Crash tests have been carried out in the well known Euro NCAP testing center on the Volt and the Renault Fluence EV that gives tested cars crash resistance ratings scores ranging from 1 to 5 points. Overall crash test results of both of cars resulted in the Fluence EZ having an over crash test rating of 4 points, as compared to the Volt receiving a higher score of 5 points, highest in the auto safety rating program. One Chevy Volt battery pack that was being closely monitored following a government crash test caught fire. Another recently crash-tested battery emitted smoke and sparks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a statement on its investigation into a Chevrolet Volt fire that occurred at the organization’s facilities. NHTSA had done a side-impact test on a Volt then parked it outside, and three weeks later Chevy’s plug-in hybrid caught fire. The battery was determined to be the cause, after its coolant line was ruptured during the side-impact test. That led the NHTSA to consider a ruling forcing hybrid and electric-car batteries to be drained after a wreck.

So far, no fires have been reported in Volts involved in roadway crashes, NHTSA said. More than 5,000 of the vehicles have been sold.

Both the crash tests on the Volt and the Fluence appear to show a vulnerability to their lithium battery packs, especially when hit in the side.

Whether or not the GM Volt and Renault Fluence manufacturers can strengthen their cars more in respect to damage from crashes remains to be seen. This appears to be especially critical in regards to the danger of the cars’ battery packs catching fire or even exploding in a serious car crash.

Recent NHTSA tests of three battery packs were designed to replicate the earlier tests. In that test, the Volt was subjected to a simulated side-impact collision into a narrow object like a tree or pole followed by a rollover.

The first battery tested. But a battery test on Nov. 17 initially experienced a temporary temperature increase, and on Thursday caught fire. Another battery tested on Nov. 18 began to smoke and emit sparks shortly after the rotation.

Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

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One comment on “Questioning Electric Car Battery Safety

Steve M

Exploiting battery pack fires like they shouldn’t occur is like saying gasoline is non-flammable. Large sources of energy in confined areas have risks. Anyone in the field of electric vehicles understands these risks and the subsequent rewards of this technology, reduction of fossil fuel usage. Media, on the other hand seems determined to be set on exploting the risks in spite of the rewards.

Such is this case where a little more information would be useful in this report, NTSA’s standard practice on internal combustion driven vehicles that are “Impact tested” is that they must be drained of the remaining fuel to prevent fires after testing. Why should an electrical vehicle “impact test” be any differnt?

No product can be made idiot proof. Yet bad press can indeed ruin the product due to misconstrued information.

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