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General Motors Company has recalled its Bolt EVs for the third time in nine months. (AP)
General Motors Company has recalled its Bolt EVs for the third time in nine months. (AP)

EVs catch fire: The how, who and what of it all

  • Several electric vehicles with a potential risk of fire have been found with defective batteries made by LG Energy Solutions.

In the last six months, several automakers around the world have announced recalls for their respective electric vehicles. These are being considered as one of the most expensive recalls in the auto industry's history. These recalls are expected to cost the automakers billions of dollars.

Also Read: Are lithium-ion batteries in EVs a fire hazard?

While the automakers are blamed whenever any EV catches fire, nobody questions the battery manufacturers. As conventional ICE vehicles come with a host of components sourced from different suppliers, the case is similar for EVs as well. Electric vehicles come equipped with batteries that are sourced from different manufacturers.

OEMs affected

In August 2021, General Motors Company has recalled its Bolt EVs for the third time in nine months. It has added 73,000 new EVs to the list of affected cars. This will cost around $1 billion and the total cost to the recall of affected Bolt EVs is $1.8 billion.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Hyundai Motor Company has recalled 82,000 EVs earlier this year. This recall cost the automaker around $900 million.

In both cases, batteries manufactured by LG Energy Solutions were reported faulty and had a possible risk of fire. The company even has announced that it will share the cost of the Chevrolet Bolt EV recall with GMC. In the case of Hyundai, the automaker had to spend $332 million for the recall, while the rest was paid by the battery maker.

LG Energy Solutions had inked battery supplying deal with Tesla.
LG Energy Solutions had inked battery supplying deal with Tesla.

Why do EVs catch fire?

Like the ICE vehicles can catch fire due to their highly combustible fuel or any electrical fault, things can go wrong for EVs as well. Electric vehicles might be equipped with lesser moving parts than their ICE counterparts, but they are equipped with lithium-ion batteries that generate extreme heat while in use.

The thermal management system of these EV batteries plays a crucial role in keeping the batteries protected. If the thermal management system is not right for a batter, it can result in a fire incident for the EV, which can be a lethal accident.

Over the past few years, demands and sales for electric vehicles have increased. As they have started garnering more attention, the fire incidents involving EVs are making headlines. While the automakers are taking the blame for such incidents, the story behind the story links battery manufacturers.

In this case, LG Energy Solutions, a part of LG Chem Ltd., is being linked to the affected electric vehicles.

General Motors has said in its latest recall announcement that key components within the battery were damaged. It mentioned that the anode tab of the battery was torn and the separator was folded. These are very basic but essential battery parts, not complex ones. In the case of Hyundai as well, it was found that the batteries had a risk of short circuits. Clearly, these are manufacturing defects, maybe due to negligence and lack of inspection.

LG Energy Solutions under scanner

Such a massive scale of Ev recall has put LG Energy Solutions under the scanner. The company is about to go for public listing later in 2021 at around $12 billion. It is one of the largest battery suppliers for the majority of the global fleet of electric vehicles. The company has struck deals with Tesla, General Motors to build and supply batteries for the OEMs. Hyundai too announced its partnership with the company to build a $1.1 billion battery-making plant in Indonesia.

Larger concern beyond monetary loss

Beyond the monetary loss by the automakers, the battery manufacturer and their investors, there are larger concerns. The poor manufacturing quality and defective batteries are putting the lives of many people at risk. This is not only putting human lives at stake but risking the value of the companies and their stakeholders as well.

It is a good sign that the automakers are initiating recall for the potentially affected vehicles and replacing the parts with potential hazards. But, such negligence on the battery makers' part can take a lot of lives which can not be replaced at any cost.

  • First Published Date : 25 Aug 2021, 06:04 PM IST