U.S. safety regulators have opened an investigation into electric and hybrid vehicle batteries after five automakers issued recalls for defects that can cause fires or stalling
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the probe covers more than 138,000 vehicles with batteries made by LG Energy Solution of South Korea.
General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Stellantis and Volkswagen have issued recalls since February of 2020, most due to internal battery failures that can increase the risk of fires.
The agency says it will write to LG and other companies that might have bought similar batteries to make sure recalls are being done when needed.
Messages were left Tuesday seeking comment from LG Energy Solution.
The investigation is another bug in a growing global rollout of electric vehicles by all automakers to replace internal combustion vehicles to cut emissions and fight climate change. Ford and BMW also have recalled batteries in recent years. Also, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigated a series of fires in Tesla vehicles and said the high-voltage lithium-ion batteries pose safety risks to first responders after crashes.
Many governments are counting on counting EVs to replace gasoline-burning vehicles that emit greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
In a document posted Tuesday on its website, NHTSA said the recalls began on Feb. 24, 2020 when Mercedes recalled a 2019 Smart Fortwo electric vehicle. The company said the high-voltage battery made by LG had a defect that could ignite inside the battery cells, raising the risk of a fire.
Eight months later, Hyundai recalled some 2019 and 2020 Kona EVs with a similar problem.
Hyundai issued a second battery recall March of 2021 covering 2019 and 2020 Konas and 2020 Ioniq EVs and said an electrical short inside the batteries could increase the risk of fires while parked, charging or driving.
Last February, Stellantis’ Chrysler brand recalled some 2017 and 2018 Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans with LG batteries after getting a dozen reports of fires. A month later, VW recalled some 2021 ID4 electric vehicles with unreliable connections inside the batteries that could cause stalling. Stellantis also has a joint venture with LG Energy Solution to make batteries for future electric vehicles.
This story has been corrected to show that five automakers issued recalls, not seven.