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Mitsu’s i-MiEV lithium-ion battery not a spontaneous fire hazard

In a letter from an executive at Mitsubishi Motors North America, Mitsubishi reassured dealers that the recent automotive fire in a lithium-ion battery pack was not, in fact, a cause for concerns for the safety of the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle.

Reports indicated that a Chevrolet Volt in the possession of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) caught fire. Ken Konieczka, vice president of sales operations for Mitsubishi Motors North America, noted that the fire in question occurred three weeks after the vehicle had been crash-tested by the NHTSA in May 2011. The agency has since confirmed that the test crash damaged the Chevy Volt’s battery pack, which eventually led to the fire in question.

“The battery pack used by the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle,” says Konieczka, “is located under the floor panel of the vehicle and is protected by a rigid body structure. The i-MiEV itself has also been subjected to extensive testing by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Japan, the official Euro NCAP test (including the pole impact test), Australia’s NCAP test, and Germany’s ADAC severe crash tests. In all of these tests, no problems regarding the lithium-ion battery pack have been reported. In addition, since starting sale in Japan in 2009, the i-MiEV has experienced zero reported crash-related events involving its lithium-ion battery. There are now more than 16,000 i-MiEVs operating throughout Japan and Europe.”

Should an i-MiEV be involved in a severe crash, Mitsubishi Motors has published an Emergency Response Guide to help assist rescue personnel. Mitsubishi Motors is also preparing additional detailed procedures regarding the proper post-crash handling and treatment of the i-MiEV and its lithium-ion battery. Meanwhile, dealers and emergency personnel are reminded of these points:

  • Follow the i-MiEV Emergency Response Guide.
  • Do not remove the traction battery from the vehicle.
  • Make sure the damaged vehicle is kept in an open area instead of a garage or other enclosed building, away from flammable materials.