Electric vehicles are becoming more popular for various economic, aesthetic, and environmental reasons. However, there has been recent concern over the safety and design of plug-in electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries after a General Motors Co. (GM) Chevrolet Volt caught on fire in May while parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing center.
The NHTSA announced in early November that it is currently working with all vehicle manufacturers to make sure that proper post-crash protocols are being implemented in regards to vehicle fires. Not only is this important for vehicle occupants, but also for emergency responders, tow-truck operators, and workers at salvage yards.
Although a damaged electric vehicle may present different risks than gasoline-powered vehicles, the NHTSA has asserted that it doesn’t believe electric vehicles pose a risk of fire greater than other vehicles. Instead, the agency emphasizes that the different design of electric vehicles will necessitate different safety standards and precautions.
According to a Bloomberg article, the NHTSA has inquired about lithium-ion battery fire risks to automakers, including GM, Nissan Motor Co., and Ford Motor Co., that sell or plan to sell vehicles with lithium-ion batteries. Both GM and the NHTSA crashed a Volt in June and couldn’t replicate the fire. A spokesman for GM stated that there are safety procedures for handling the Volt and its battery after a collision and if those procedures had been followed, the fire wouldn’t have occurred. The spokesman also stated that as new technology is developed, new safety protocols need to be developed as well to match the technology just like there are safety protocols for conventional cars.
The NHTSA will continue to conduct additional testing of the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries in addition to monitoring these vehicles.
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