Range anxiety, limited charging infrastructure and cost have held consumers back from buying electric vehicles in large numbers. Beyond those consideration hurdles, a key issue for making EVs mainstream will be safety.
General Motors and Hyundai have issued major EV recalls in recent months to reduce the risk of a battery fire. Vehicle owners routinely disregard safety campaigns, but they shouldn't ignore these callbacks.
What automotive engineers call "thermal runaway" can look to consumers like "spontaneous combustion."
Some fires start during charging; others are sparked by a high-speed crash. In either case, battery fires are notoriously hard to put out: A Tesla vehicle that crashed in April burned for a reported four hours before it was fully extinguished.
Though still relatively rare, EV blazes have become a growing problem for the industry: As sales are growing, so are battery-fire complaints, investigations and recalls. Automakers and their suppliers need to take action now to ensure these vehicles' safety before they take a much larger share of the market.
Automakers are leaning into an electric future. GM is aiming for an all-electric, light-vehicle lineup by 2035. Honda said it plans to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles by 2040. Volvo's target is 2030. Industrywide, nearly 100 EVs are slated to launch in the U.S. market through 2024. That's a lot of liability, if the batteries aren't safe.