EV fires are a problem, and LG may have found a solution.
LG Chem, part of the LG Group conglomerate, recently announced a new plastic that could revolutionize the EV segment. LG's battery division could use some good news following its involvement in the Chevrolet Bolt scandal, and EVs, in general, could use a boost after the sinking of the Felicity Ace.
EV fires remain a contentious issue, but now LG has unveiled a new plastic material that can delay thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is essentially a chain reaction. An EV fire requires only one cell to overheat and go up in flames, and the rest will follow. Since these batteries are highly reactive to water, you can't use good old H2O to extinguish an EV fire.
The next best thing is to delay the thermal runaway for as long as possible until the right equipment arrives. LG's new plastic aims to do precisely that and is a blend of polyphenylene oxide (PPO), polyamide (PA), and polybutylene terephthalate (PBT).
This is not a new concept, as we first reported on an American-made heat-resistant battery tray.
LG, however, states that its new material can block heat for a longer period. LG also says that it has "superb dimensional stability," which means it will maintain its original shape despite severe temperature changes.
According to LG Chem's in-house test results, "the material can block flame propagation caused by thermal runaway more than 400 seconds in 1,000 degrees." This is 45 times better than general flame-retardant plastics.
It works out to roughly just under seven minutes. LG says this will help secure the time needed to evacuate drivers and put out a fire.
LG started with research and development on this material in 2009 and claims it now has the world's best flame-retardant material for battery packs. Mass production is scheduled for 2023, which aligns perfectly with its automotive partners' schedules.
LG continues to supply batteries to General Motors as part of the Ultium joint venture. The reliability of said batteries is now more critical than ever, considering the series of high-profile EVs that GM will offer in the coming years. It's important to note that all incoming models will use the new battery technology and not the old Bolt batteries that damaged Chevy's reputation.