By on June 18, 2019

China is currently the largest proponent of electric vehicles on the entire planet. The nation has even incorporated BEVs as a significant part of its complex strategy to overtake the United States the dominant global superpower. However a sudden influx of battery related fires has caused it some trepidation, even though there hasn’t been much evidence to suggest they are actually more prone to catching fire than gas-powered vehicles.

Regardless, the People’s Republic is now demanding that manufacturers conduct routine inspections on electric cars. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology says all companies must conduct checks on BEVs, focusing on battery waterproofing, battery boxes, charging points, high-voltage wiring harnesses, and even the wear of mechanical components. They will also be required to report on repairs and any incidents that might indicate a problem. According to the ministry’s press release, they have until October to submit their findings. 

Those inspections will not be limited to factory vehicles. China said EVs already been sold to the public should also be checked, with extra attention being given to high-milage vehicles like busses and cabs. For personal transport, the ministry said manufacturers needed to “clearly inform the user when the vehicle triggers the conditions” so they can return the cars for inspection. Triggers include routine maintenance schedules, any accidents, the car being exposed to standing water, and all noteworthy system malfunctions (heat management, overcharge, etc).

However, this should be relatively easy to do since China has put in place an impressive system that effectively spies on all drivers with connected EVs. Automakers are required by the state to share the data collected from these vehicles with local government centers and a national lab that tracks the cars in real time.

China claims this is being done to promote safety, improve city planning, and reduce harmful emissions. But it’s also the only country in the whole world that does it. While other nations do collect driving data from automakers that monitor the status of connected vehicles, it’s not mandated by the government or sent to government-backed monitoring centers.

In its release, the Chinese ministry said manufacturers should likewise monitor for safety issues “24-7” by implementing an all-day-every-day program to ensure the drivers of at-risk vehicles be notified immediately. This information is then supposed to be delivered to “local and national regulatory platforms within one day.”

Bloomberg, which glossed over much of the data sharing, said that China is upset over the highly publicized battery fires from Tesla and NIO. The country recorded at least 40 fire-related incidents stemming from new-energy vehicles in 2018. The State Administration for Market Regulation also recalled 130,000 new-energy vehicles last year, which it claimed was unacceptable.


[Image: Wideweb/Shutterstock]

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19 Comments on “BEV Fires Encourage China to Get Serious About Battery Safety, Vehicle Monitoring...”

  • avatar

    It will also be coming to a state near you,thinking you can opt out of a smog inspection by going BEV! Here in middle Tennessee there is talk of ending the smog/emissions test since most newer cars are always in compliance and little money is actually being made for the counties in the process, however I can see the testing of BEV’s being a real safety issue especially when most people are not that inclined to inspect there own charging/wiring systems or would even know what or where to look! What do you think?

    • 0 avatar

      Well, the emissions of a burning BEV are presumably not good. So maybe an enhanced safety inspection for BEVs can serve to improve emissions by preventing a fire or two.

      • 0 avatar

        Thing is, fossil cars burn a lot more. Plenty of manufacturing and design defects cause them.

        ” most people are not that inclined to inspect there own charging/wiring systems or would even know what or where to look!”

        Not really true. You don’t know much about EVs. Every time you charge, the charging equipment performs diagnostics on the entire system. If there’s a problem you get a fault and it won’t charge. Same internally. It’s electronic and you can monitor everything in the car.

        Newer battery chemistries should get rid of the fire issues. I know semi-solid technology eliminates the problem. I suspect the Maxwell-based technology Tesla is switching to should resist those sorts of problems as well.

    • 0 avatar

      In response to your smog/emissions testing. If they are not making money then they are pricing it wrong. Here in coastal california $79 to hook testing station computer to the OBD plug. Collect vehicle data and send on to CARB. Whole process takes about 5 mins with perhaps 3 minutes for the tester to rummage around and find the OBD interface plug. Required once every two years.

      Even better is that for a new vehicle the first 2 year testing cycle can be skipped (because they know failure rate will be extremely low) but you still get to pay the smog fee at registration time even though no testing was done.

      Ca-Ching, Ca-Ching.

  • avatar

    Re-posting this from vvk’s comment on another of today’s articles: “BREAKING: Toyota RAV4 catches fire, explodes in the street:

    Toyota is so irresponsible to release this dangerous gas burning technology for public road use!”

    This comment more appropriately belongs here as his counterpoint to BEV issues with burning to piles of ash.

    • 0 avatar

      Unless it’s a bicycle or a horse cart, it’s going to be prone to catching fire. And I’m sure someone can probably find a burning horsecart somewhere.–and-theyre-not-electric

      • 0 avatar

        Hah! J Leno did a show driving his model T in D.C. ,he told and showed pictures of what the streets in New York use to look like with all of the tons of horse manure being dumped and shoveled to the side of the streets, disgusting era but that was the norm, the smell alone must of gagged a maggot!No pollution there! ;x(

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s good that China is taking BEV safety seriously.

    Although I’d argue BEVs are *generally* much more safe than ICE cars because they burn rather than explode (a meaningful difference), BEV safety implementation is certainly not going to be uniform.

    There are myriad nuances engineers have to consider with individual cell internal safety mechanisms, pack safety, protection circuits and software, charging/discharging circuit design, mfg variations, and crash design. Not every company is going to address these issues the same way, and Chines mfrs are notorious for cutting hidden corners to save face in a more visible way.

    • 0 avatar

      From the teardowns I’ve seen, I Tesla has gone a long ways towards protecting the cells with the Model 3 pack. They seem pretty secure in that gel. Still, with the pre-charge diagnostics and tools like LeafSpy, an EV owner can know more about the health of the circuitry and battery of the car than a fossil car’s owner knows about their fuel system.

      • 0 avatar

        ” more than a fossil fuel owner knows about their fuel system” -The nose knows!

      • 0 avatar

        Tesla may have a good design, but it’s obvious their manufacturing quality is all over the place. Based on reports from “gigafactory Nevada”, their battery production is on par with the Fremont paint line.

        • 0 avatar

          @indi500fan: Tesla has a good design for the Model 3 battery pack, but the S and X pack design has issues. The thermal management isn’t as good and worse, the spontaneous fires seem to be only with the X and S.

          As far as Model 3 battery manufacturing quality goes, it’s always received praise from the people doing teardowns. Munro Engineering had a lot of good things to say about the batteries.

          The fit and finish issues seem to be solved now – at least according to famous Tesla cheerleader Bob Lutz. He says Model 3 fit and finish is now world class:

  • avatar

    When an EV does catch fire, there is some level of stored energy in its battery pack, just as when a petromobile combusts, the fuel tank will have some dinojuice in it representing stored energy.

    If you douse a flaming petromobile with water or foam by excluding oxygen, you essentially stop the further release of energy from whatever fuel remains.

    Dousing a burning EV with whatever does nothing useful with respect to the remaining stored energy in the battery. You could pour 20 tons of sand over it from a dump truck and not change the outcome. It doesn’t matter about on-board diagnostics keeping the driver informed on battery health – that unfortunate got the hell out of the burning EV and ran to a safe distance. Smart.

    So firefighters haven’t any idea what the hell they’re facing with an EV fire. Is it a major short or a minor one, how much energy is left in the battery, if they kill the outward signs of combustion, will a short reignite a fire later as seems to sometime happen? It’s all a big unknown, likely very dangerous because of the unknowns and for that reason an EV fire is MUCH MORE of an event than a petromobile incinerating itself. Sorry EV fans and apologizers, it just is.

    Lithium batteries have a very low self-discharge rate when not connected to a load, so a wrecked EV could be sitting there in a yard like a small unexploded device. When the “experts” like Murilee come along to wrench off spare parts, who knows what can happen? Any dolt knows that removing a gas cap and flicking a BIC can be a problem. I knew one in my high school class and he had no hair and looked like he’d had been roasting in the Caribbean sun the next day – too bad it was February and snowing, and he was lucky as he was blown into a snowdrift. But there’s no way to know how to approach a derelict EV with your Harbor Freight Deluxe tool kit and be safe, no handy points to probe with a voltmeter if you really don’t want to blind yourself with a possible electric arc flash by causing an inadvertent short.

    There’s plenty to ponder for the future, But luckily, living in the West and not subject to any electronic surveillance whatsoever by anyone at all like Alexa phoning home with your every cough and unravelling noise of a spinning toilet roll holder, the Chinese who live in a different dystopia of unreality seem to be actively pursuing EV safety programs, while free minds are bogged down with the ratio of petromobile to EV fires, not what to do before as in prevention and after when facing an actual EV fire event. Let’s get real on the technical side without bringing up extraneous arguments that get us all nowhere.

    • 0 avatar

      @conundrum: Diagnostics on the health of the battery and circuitry are important.

      “So firefighters haven’t any idea what the hell they’re facing with an EV fire.”

      They’re trained on dealing with them.

      As for the future, check out this page. They demonstrate various abuses of new generation batteries with no ill effects. Also one video of what happens when the current liquid technology is punctured. Even with the old technology, the battery extinguishes itself fairly fast. No videos of a gas tank being shot.

  • avatar

    Break out the marshmallows.

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