Eight out of 22 electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers have successfully completed actions to improve EV safety based on recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in January of this year.
Specifically, automakers Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Proterra, Van Hool, Volkswagen, and Volvo have taken key steps to improve their emergency response guides and incorporate vehicle-specific information for fighting high-voltage lithium battery fires in their electric vehicles.
As more fleets begin to transition to EVs, there will be new safety challenges to understand and address. These latest NTSB recommendations were intended to save the lives of both first responders and EV crash victims. The objective of the recommendation was to get manufacturers to clarify how to suppress a high-voltage lithium-ion battery fire after a crash.
The recommendation came on the heels of a report issued by NTSB. The report identified two key safety issues. The first concern was the inadequate content of EV manufacturers’ emergency response guides. The second concern was about gaps in safety standards and research related to high-voltage lithium-ion batteries in high-speed, high-severity collisions.
The risks associated with fires in EVs powered by high-voltage lithium-ion batteries are significant. For starters, they can pose an electric shock to emergency responders. Moreover, damaged cells in the battery can experience thermal runaway — uncontrolled increases in temperature and pressure — which can lead to battery recognition/fire from the stranded energy that remains in a damaged battery.
Twelve additional manufacturers are making progress toward implementing the NTSB recommendations, according to the agency. These include BMW, BYD, Stellantis, Ford, General Motors, Gillig, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Subaru, Tesla, and Toyota. Two EV makers — Nova Bus Corporation and Karma Automotive — have yet to respond.
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