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USA: NHTSA announces conference on electric vehicle safety

Auto companies, battery makers and government officials will examine the safety of electric vehicles at a May 18 symposium organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency, which is studying the safety performance and durability of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, announced the Washington, D.C., event earlier this week on a government website. The presenters will include NHTSA, the Department of Energy, automakers and battery companies.

The event comes after a prolonged period of scrutiny for vehicles like General Motors’ extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt, which drew a NHTSA investigation after a Volt ignited in the laboratory three weeks after a May 2011 crash test. The government, which did not follow standard safety protocols laid out by the GM, later determined that the Volt was safe to drive.

But other concerns about lithium-ion batteries remain. Massachusetts-based battery maker A123 Systems was recently forced to replace defective battery packs after discovering a problem with a welding machine. And earlier this month a GM employee was seriously injured in a battery lab explosion reportedly tied to an A123 battery that was subject to intense testing.
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