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Lithium-Ion Battery “Safety Concerns” Still Weighing on Electric Vehicle Sales

Lithium-Ion Battery Found in Chevy Volt, Hazardous Goods?
Lithium-Ion Battery Found in Chevy Volt, Hazardous Goods?

Currently, the best rechargeable battery technology for electric vehicles is the lithium-ion battery pack, but concerns over safety are keeping sales numbers down.

The development and commercialization of the lithium-ion battery pack has been a boon to any number of wireless devices, from mobile phones and laptops to electric vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries have the best energy density and lifespan of any previous battery technology, but this hasn’t been without a couple of issues.

According to some experts, about 25% of a typical lithium-ion battery is flammable, and recent fires involving lithium-ion-bearing electric vehicles have raised concerns. Major shipping companies, like DHL, say they take extra precaution when shipping lithium-ion battery packs, especially used ones. First, they can only be shipped on the ground. Second, they must be packed carefully to ensure minimal temperature changes.

Skeptics cite a burnt-out Chevy Volt, but conveniently leave out the battery ignited weeks after some serious destructive testing. They may also cite the burning of 16 Fisker Karma extended-range electric vehicles after being submerged by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge, but neglect to mention that the fire was caused by a short in the 12V system, something common to all vehicles.

Perhaps another nail in the coffin could be the recent problem with Boeing’s lithium-ion battery packs aboard the 787 Dreamliner. What’s interesting is that the US Navy and even the International Space Station plan on using lithium-ion battery packs in the future.


Really, are lithium-ion battery packs that much more dangerous than conventional vehicles? Did gasoline suddenly become less-flammable? What of materials common to conventional and electric vehicles, such as foam seat cushions, plastics, and insulation materials? This sounds to me like more fuzzy reporting favoring petroleum, which seems to have worked along that line to keep electric vehicle sales down.

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