NHTSA to establish EV battery safety initiative

NHTSA is creating an initiative to coordinate research, conduct investigations and develop safety standards related to electric vehicle batteries.

As part of the initiative, the agency on Friday said it will collect and analyze data, conduct special investigations of EV crashes and noncrash events, conduct research on battery diagnostics and prognostics and explore risks related to cybersecurity and vehicle connectivity.

The move by U.S. safety regulators to address battery safety comes as EV fires have become a growing concern for the auto industry, with complaints of battery-related fires starting to stack up. Meanwhile, EV options in the U.S. are expected to grow through 2024, as automakers unveil more models.

Several incidents have involved Tesla vehicles bursting into flames after crashes, including a March 2018 accident on a freeway in California when a Model X caught fire twice in one day. Tesla has also been the focus of several investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board for its vehicle fires.

In November, General Motors said it was recalling more than 68,000 Chevrolet Bolts, a month after regulators began investigating whether they were at risk of catching fire.

Hyundai Motor Co. said in October it was expanding the number of recalled Kona EVs over battery cell fire risks. In South Korea, the automaker is being sued over a string of battery fires in its EVs.

“NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigations has conducted several investigations and overseen multiple recalls associated with vehicle and house fires caused by issues relating to electric vehicle batteries,” the agency said.

With the initiative, NHTSA said it will “continue to conduct investigations into potential safety-related defects related to electric vehicle batteries.”

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