Now that more electric vehicles are finding their way onto the highways and byways of the world, there is a disturbing pattern emerging. Worldwide there has been an increasing string of EV fires from overheated batteries according to Reuters. Let’s look at each car manufacturer’s track records and also its recalls when it comes to EV fires and the actual and potential damage caused by them.
In the last two years, there have been 16 fires of Hyundai Kona EVs. It has now recalled almost 75,000 Kona models sold in South Korea, the US, Europe, and Canada. The recall addresses upgrades to the battery management system. Of the 23,000 that have been upgraded 800 Kona models had battery issues that required some module replacement. It says the issues are because of “internal damage to certain cells of the lithium-ion battery increasing the risk of an electrical short circuit.” The batteries are made by LG Chem who denies cell issues that occur with its products.
Last week General Motors announced a recall of almost 70,000 Chevy Bolt EVs over fire risks. Worldwide there have been five Bolt fires resulting in two minor injuries. The fix includes limiting battery charges to 90% capacity. Now the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is probing why three Bolts caught fire while parked. The Bolt batteries are made by LG Chem.
Ford’s European Kuga plug-in hybrid EV was recalled for battery fire issues. Over 20,000 Kugas have been recalled after seven fires have been reported. There have been no injuries from the fires. Ford is replacing the batteries over what it says is battery cell contamination with supplier Samsung SDI’s production. It has also affected the production of the US Escape SUV which uses the same batteries. It won’t be available now until 2021.
BMW is recalling over 4,500 plug-in hybrid EVs with a similar charge as Ford’s with battery supplier Samsung SDI. It says debris is entering battery cells during the production of the batteries. BMW says “thermal events” occur. About 26,000 plug-in hybrids worldwide have been recalled over battery problems.
Then there is the ongoing probe of Tesla Model S and Model X EVs by the NHTSA. Numerous fires not involving an accident have been reported to the agency. A petition from a class-action lawsuit filed against Tesla caused the probe to be opened. The lawsuit says that Tesla made an over-the-air update to the software to limit battery range to avoid a recall. It likely would have required that the Panasonic batteries be replaced which could be costly for Tesla. The Panasonic battery packs are actually made from over 7,000 battery cells ganged together.