The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an extended investigation into any possible fire risk associated with the lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles. The $8.75 million study will last through 2014 and will specifically focus on whether or not the cells can catch fire while being charged at home or when in an accident. Automotive News reports that the study was spurred by a recall initiated by computer maker Dell for potentially faulty laptop cells. In certain rare circumstances, the Sony-manufactured cells could overheat and cause a fire.
As Automotive News points out, most electric vehicle batteries are only in danger of overheating during an over-charge situation.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of hybrids on the road today use a nickel-metal hydride battery, the study will focus solely on the danger posed by lithium-ion technology. That's because those cells are forecasted to power up to 70 percent of all hybrids and EVs on the road within the next 10 years.