Electric cars

US agency opens investigation into electric vehicle batteries

US agency opens investigation into electric vehicle batteries

US safety regulators have launched an investigation into electric and hybrid vehicle batteries after five automakers issued recalls for defects that could cause fires or stalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the probe covers more than 138,000 vehicles with batteries made by South Korea’s LG Energy Solution.

General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Stellantis and Volkswagen have issued recalls since February 2020, most due to internal battery failures which can increase the risk of fire.

The agency says it will write to LG and other companies that may have purchased similar batteries to ensure recalls are issued when needed.

Messages were left Tuesday seeking comment from LG Energy Solution.

The investigation is another bug in the growing global rollout of electric vehicles by all automakers to replace internal combustion vehicles to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. Ford and BMW have also recalled batteries in recent years. Additionally, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigated a series of fires in Tesla vehicles and said high-voltage lithium-ion batteries posed safety risks to first responders after crashes.

Many governments rely on electric vehicles to replace gasoline-powered vehicles that emit greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

In a document posted on its website Tuesday, NHTSA said the recalls began on February 24, 2020 when Mercedes recalled a 2019 Smart Fortwo electric vehicle. The company said the high-voltage battery manufactured by LG had a defect that could ignite inside the battery cells, increasing the risk of fire.

Eight months later, Hyundai recalled certain 2019 and 2020 Kona electric vehicles with a similar issue.

Hyundai issued a second battery recall in March 2021 covering 2019 and 2020 Konas and 2020 Ioniq electric vehicles and said an electrical short inside the batteries could increase the risk of fire while parked, charging or driving.

Last February, the Chrysler brand of Stellantis recalled certain 2017 and 2018 Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans with LG batteries after receiving a dozen reports of fires. A month later, VW recalled certain 2021 ID4 electric vehicles with unreliable connections inside the batteries that could cause stalling. Stellantis also has a joint venture with LG Energy Solution to manufacture batteries for future electric vehicles.

———

This story has been corrected to show that five automakers issued recalls, not seven.