Lithium-ion battery melts, another catches fire in Mitsubishi vehicles

JIJI, Bloomberg

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said two lithium-ion battery packs suffered accidents last week.

A charged battery melted March 21 in an Outlander PHEV at a dealership in Kanagawa Prefecture before the vehicle was sold, Mitsubishi Motors said Wednesday.

The automaker also said a lithium-ion battery pack in an i-MiEV electric vehicle caught fire during a charging test at a plant in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, on March 18.

Both batteries were produced by Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture set up by Mitsubishi Motors, GS Yuasa Corp. and trading house Mitsubishi Corp.

GS Yuasa, based in Kyoto, manufactured the lithium-ion batteries that have been malfunctioning on Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Ryugo Nakao, director of MMC, told reporters that he cannot comment on whether there are any links between the problems at the automaker and Boeing.

Nakao said it was possible a metallic fragment may have been mixed in during the manufacturing process, causing the battery to short out.

“We will find the cause of the trouble in about one to two weeks,” he said.

Boeing Co. said Wednesday that the fire in a lithium-ion automobile battery built by GS Yuasa is unrelated to overheating that prompted the worldwide grounding of the composite plastic jet.

“We have been assured that the battery in question is fundamentally different from the 787 battery both in its construction processes, design, and chemistry,” said Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman.

He said GS Yuasa reported the fire to Boeing, which is working toward government approval of a battery fix that would let the Dreamliner return to commercial service.

Mitsubishi Motors will halt production and sales of the Outlander PHEV for the time being while calling on owners not to charge their vehicles from an external power source.

The company will also consider whether it is necessary to recall the vehicle.

So far, some 4,000 units have been sold since the Outlander PHEV was released in January. The company said nobody was injured in the i-MiEV battery fire.

Mitsubishi Motors is investigating the cause of the fire and production of i-MiEVs and Minicab-MiEV commercial electric vehicles using batteries from Lithium Energy will be suspended.

The 787’s lithium-ion batteries have been under scrutiny by U.S. regulators after one caught fire on a parked jet in Boston and another began smoldering and smoking, prompting an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport in Kagawa Prefecture.

Boeing performed a test flight March 25 with its proposed fix and plans a second 787 flight in the “coming days” before submitting the changes to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval.

Although Boeing hasn’t found the cause of its lithium-ion battery malfunctions, the Chicago-based company said March 15 that changes to the design and added safeguards, such as a new enclosure and a vent line, will ensure safety.

Boeing, which has a backlog of more than 800 Dreamliners with a list price starting at about $207 million, has halted deliveries until commercial service resumes.

  • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

    If the problem is due to impurities, and if impurities can be reliably detected through extensive (and possibly expensive) testing, then perhaps it is a solution.