Mitsubishi pauses production of two plug-in models after battery pack fires

Mitsubishi has suspended production of its Outlander PHEV and some models of the i-MiEV, after two separate incidents in Japan in which the battery packs caught fire.

 

What could be worse news than an EV battery fire? Two in the same week, with a tie-in to the infamous 787 Dreamliner meltdowns!
 
Mitsubishi has suspended production of its Outlander PHEV and some models of the i-MiEV, after two separate incidents in Japan in which lithium-ion battery packs used in the vehicles caught fire.
 
In the first incident, according to Mitsubishi, one of the 16 kWh battery packs used in the i-MiEV overheated in the battery inspection room at the company’s Mizushima Plant. The pack, which was connected to charge-discharge equipment as part of a final inspection, started to smoke, and then caught fire an hour later. There were no injuries and no damage to the building or equipment.
 
The company is investigating, and suspects that a change in the manufacturing process may have caused defects. Some recent alterations to the battery production line may have caused internal contamination that created a short circuit, Ryugo Nakao, a Mitsubishi director, said at a press conference. “We will find the cause of the trouble in about one to two weeks.”
 
Some 68 vehicles, used by fleet customers, use packs of the same type, and another 45 have been shipped as spare parts. Mitsubishi has contacted the buyers.
 
The second incident involved an Outlander PHEV at a dealership in Yokohama that was found to have a partially melted battery pack. One of the pack’s 80 cells had overheated, melting adjacent cells. There were no injuries, and no damage to the vehicle outside of the battery pack itself. Mitsubishi has asked Outlander PHEV drivers to refrain from using external charging until the cause is found. Around 4,000 of the plug-in SUVs have been sold in Japan.
 
The company has not announced a recall of either vehicle.
 
Mitsubishi’s batteries come from Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture between Mitsubishi and GS Yuasa, which also makes the battery packs that overheated and grounded Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner (although Mitsubishi’s packs are “fundamentally different from the 787 batteries,” according to Boeing). GS Yuasa’s stock tumbled in Tokyo trading after the Mitsubishi incidents.
 
“Depending on what the cause is, this could call into question the company’s reliability,” Jun Yamaguchi, a Tokyo-based analyst at Credit Suisse, told Bloomberg. “It will come down to how hard the company tries to fix the problem and how consumers view that.”
 

Image: Mitsubishi