Electric Vehicle Battery Investigation, Fires and Recalls; NHTSA Alerts Automakers

Electric Vehicle Battery Investigation, Fires and Recalls; NHTSA Alerts Automakers

Recent auto recalls tied to defective electric vehicle batteries, have led to a federal investigation into a high-voltage Korean battery manufacturer that supplies multiple automakers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation aims to alert other automakers about potentially defective and dangerous batteries, according to Reuters. The federal agency wants to ensure all manufacturers installing these batteries are aware of the potential problems and issue necessary recalls.

It comes at a time when more people are buying electrified vehicles. Also, automakers are risking billions into the new green technology in a move away from traditional gas-and diesel-powered engines. Indeed, last year consumers worldwide purchased 6.6 million electric vehicles, up 3 million sold in 2020 and 2.2 million in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The federal investigation by the NHTSA is specifically targeting high-voltage EV batteries manufactured by LG Energy Solution. These particular batteries have been identified as problematic among products installed in several vehicle models from multiple auto manufacturers. The batteries are being blamed for fires and subsequently, massive recalls from from Chevrolet, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Stellantis NV (Chrysler). In fact, the NHTSA launched its inquiry last Friday, affecting some 138,324 vehicles. The auto safety agency plans to alert other automakers to potentially defective batteries in their vehicles equipped with products made by LG Energy Solution. This could lead to more recalls.

“LG Energy Solution will fully cooperate with the inquiry,” the NHTSA reported.

Defective batteries with safety defects are just one of many challenges to electric vehicle manufacturers. Indeed, this compounds obstacles already facing those considering EV ownership such as charging availability, speed or power, electric grid reliability, fire risk and safety defects.

Recalled EVs Cited as Impetus for Federal Investigation

There are six recalls or filings by auto manufacturers of electric vehicles.

General Motors Co. issued a recall in 2020, but last year expanded it to include every single Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV it ever produced. The reason? They discovered a fire risk from two manufacturing defects in the batteries. The company spent months replacing these batteries in its existing customer’s Bolt vehicles. It was only this week that GM resumed production of new Bolt electric vehicles at its Lake Orion production plant. These two service actions cost GM roughly $1.8 billion. 

Mercedes Benz USA LLC issued a recall for a single 2019 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive vehicle due to a fire-risk defect.

Recalls in 2020 and 2021 by Hyundai Motor Co., sought to address battery manufacturing defects and fire risk in its 2019-2020 Kona Electric and 2020 Ioniq Electric vehicles. The Kona recall alone cost Hyundai about $900 million.

In March, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. issued a recall for certain 2021 ID4 vehicles. The problem stems from insufficient soldering points that make for unreliable connections in their batteries. This issue could lead to the vehicle breaking down or stalling, risking a crash.

Stellantis NV also issued a recall last month for its 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans. The company reported at least 12 fires. However, it has yet to determine if the battery packs are defective or if they caused the fires.

Types of Battery Fires

There are two types of battery fires that occur. The first, is triggered by a crash that damages and shorts out the battery pack. If this happens, the individual cells are set ablaze.

The second, takes place while a vehicle is parked. Some of these some cases involved a vehicle parked inside a garage. The vehicles caught on fire whether they were hooked up to chargers or not. These fires are known to spread to structures such as garages or homes.

The number of EV blazes is low, but when the lithium-ion pack catches fire it can be extremely difficult to extinguish. In one case involving a Chevrolet Bolt, firefighters were shooting water at that electric vehicle and it wouldn’t go out. In fact, the NHTSA reported firefighters spent an hour trying to douse the flames. Although it eventually went out, it restarted an hour later and a third time after it was towed to a Chevy dealership.

What happens to worn-out EV batteries?

Over time, EV batteries will lose capacity at about 2 percent of their range annually. Over many years, the driving range may be considerably reduced. If EV batteries go bad, they can be serviced and individual cells inside the battery can be replaced. However, eventually, the entire battery pack will need to be replaced if it has degraded to the point where it is no longer serviceable. This would be after many years of service and several hundred thousand miles. The cost would likely range between $5,000 and $15,000 to replace these batteries.

California Lemon Law Attorney James Johnson

If you purchased a defective electric or hybrid vehicle and have repeated problems, it may be time to call for help.

California Lemon Law Attorney James Johnson will review your case and let you know if it qualifies as a lemon.

We recommend that you obtain an invoice for all repairs and recall visits from the dealership. These documents will support your potential case. Should the vehicle experience repeated issues or become a safety risk, these documents support the Lemon Law Claim. Contact us for a free case review at 800-558-1087.

James Johnson ESQ