JEJU, May 2 (Korea Bizwire) — The government and car manufacturers have to put a bigger focus on the safety of battery packs as a series of recent battery fires may drive down demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and have a negative impact on the burgeoning EV market, experts said Tuesday.
South Korea currently has about 400,000 registered EVs, accounting for 1.6 percent of the country’s registered passenger and commercial vehicles, amid automakers’ accelerating electrification push in recent years.
But battery fires in some EV models have sparked grave concerns among consumers over the safety of pure electric cars.
In the latest incident, an EV caught fire while charging at the underground parking space of an apartment in Busan, 453 kilometers south of Seoul. The EV burned down, and five vehicles parked near it were affected.
In December, a 70-year-old taxi driver crashed into the wall in Yeongju, 230 km south of Seoul, and died, as he failed to escape the all-electric vehicle.
Firefighters couldn’t open the car, and it took nearly two hours for them to extinguish the flames, whose temperature reportedly reached up to 1,000 degrees Celsius.
“The demand for safety in EVs is growing bigger than that for extended driving range due to some recent battery fire incidents,” Choi Woong-chul, a professor who teaches automotive engineering at Kookmin University, said in a seminar on the sidelines of the 10th International Electric Vehicle EXPO (IEVE).
Hyundai Motor Group is developing its EV models after analyzing battery fire cases collected at home and abroad to avoid any possible battery fires, according to Paek Chang-in, vice president of the group’s integrated safety development group.
The annual EV exhibition began at the Jeju International Convention Center in the southern resort island of Jeju on Tuesday and will last through Friday.
Industry officials and auto experts are gathering on the resort island to exchange their views on the prospects of the EV market and ways to promote zero-emission cars to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The number of recalls involving car battery fires jumped to 67 in Korea in 2022 from three in 2018 as carmakers launch more EV models to meet market demands, Shin & Kim LLC law firm said, citing data from the Korea Automobile Testing & Research Institute (KATRI).
The number of recalled EVs also soared to 205,344 from 12,264 during the same period. The affected EVs include all-electric and a tiny number of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, KATRI data showed.
“Faced with public criticism, carmakers have made ‘incomplete’ recalls in many cases of recalls in regard to high-voltage EV batteries,” Lee Kwang-bum, an adviser at the law firm, said in the seminar.
The government, carmakers and related parties need to come up with measures to prevent such battery fires from taking place in order not to lose consumers’ trust in EVs and other battery-based future mobility solutions, EV-ALL Co. CEO Lee Hoo-kyung said.