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September 19, 2016

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Home » Business » Autotalk Special

Car buyers remain leery about green car safety

NO matter what kind of new energy cars rush to the street in the near future, public concern about safety is a pitfall all automakers must address.

Shanghai itself has seen several electric cars catch fire, fanning speculation about the insecure nature of current battery technologies. Lithium-ion batteries, the choice of many carmakers because of their high energy density, happen to be highly inflammable. Before there is any breakthrough in materials science, the most carmakers can do is to improve their battery management systems.

For vehicles, functional safety can be a tricky issue because it is more difficult to define their safe operational state than that of stand-alone machines, said Heinz Gall, head of functional safety and security at TUV Rheinland, a global industrial certification company.

If there is a short-circuit in a battery pack, when the car is running on a highway, is it wise to disconnect the power immediately?

For purely electric cars, the solution requires more delicate design of the battery pack made of modules that can be combined for work and isolated for danger.

On hybrids, it is a less stressful decision to cut off the electric power, knowing that the internal combustion engine will automatically kick in as backup. A fall-back plan is always needed.

Safety management of electric cars is also about detecting and stopping obvious human mistakes in operation, said Zhao Bin, head of functional safety and security at TUV Rheinland China.

“There have been accidents involving users attempting to drive off in their electric cars when they were still plugged in for charging,” he said. “Apparently they forgot. But that’s the kind of mistake carmakers must address. A safe car is built with heart and soul. Many carmakers in China are trying, but not hard enough.”


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