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Experts urge efforts to prevent EV firesBy Byun Hye-jin
Published : May 2, 2023 - 18:18
SEOGWIPO, Jeju Island – Amid a surge in electric vehicle sales globally, experts on Tuesday called for concerted efforts among policymakers and industry officials to prevent EV batteries from catching fire.
Fire-prone batteries were blamed for 12 percent of the total 130 recalls issued here since 2018, while software malfunctions took up the largest share at 43 percent, according to Lee Gwang-beom, an advisor at law firm Shin & Kim.
“But battery fires are directly linked to consumer safety, prompting stricter scrutiny,” Lee said during a symposium hosted by the Korea Automobile Journalists Association held on the sidelines of the International Electric Vehicle Expo that kicked off in Jeju Island on Tuesday.
“Identifying the cause of fires, however, is hard because battery cells melt down into the ground. Also, there are at least three to four manufacturers associated with the battery in the cell, module, battery management system and pack levels who likely supplied faulty products and services,” he said.
Seok Ju-sik, vice president at the state-led Korea Automobile Testing & Research Institute, echoed the view, saying, “We are discussing mandating carmakers and their suppliers to receive a green light for certain components beforehand, as there is no such mandate under the current self-certification system.”
During the event, the nation’s largest carmaker Hyundai Motor Group also shared its efforts to strengthen safety measures in case of EV fires.
“The fire hazard risk increases by 90 percent when it comes to EVs compared to conventional internal combustion engine vehicles,” said Baek Chang-in, director of the integrated safety management division at Hyundai. “So we are especially focusing on minimizing the collision impact of high-speed cars like the Ioniq 5 accident last year.”
Hyundai is also researching how to delay fires, buying enough time for drivers and passengers to evacuate safely as well as automatically opening the doors of 12-volt electric cars in case of a fire, Baek added.
Industry insiders also urged battery makers to take their fair share of the blame, saying that most fires start from overheated battery cells.
“It is extremely challenging to stop a fire on electrified cars with water. Lithium-ion batteries even have a risk of bursting into flames again,” said Lee Hoo-kyung, CEO of the EV service startup Evall.
“Battery makers must come up with efficient countermeasures such as using compressed air to extinguish fires,” Lee added.
Aside from fires linked to collision accidents, Lee suggested the government regulate underground standard chargers so that they only charge EVs up to 80-90 percent, pointing out that some parked EVs go up in flames after a full charge on such chargers.
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