China Issues Mandatory Standards for Electric Vechicles and Their Batteries
Initially set for January 1, 2020, the Chinese government issued three national standards on safety requirements for electronic vehicles and their batteries.
These standards have been put together by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and approved by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) and the Standardization Administration Committee (SAC).
Making Electric Vehicles Safer
They have been based around the existing voluntary standards concerning the electric vehicle and the electric bus, with the addition of more stringent technique requirements relating to the safety of power systems such as lithium-ion batteries.
One of the most notorious problems relating to lithium-ion batteries, thermal runaway, has prompted China to enforce mandatory standards. A major safety concern not only for consumers but also regulators and manufacturers, thermal runaway is the most common cause of fires in electric vehicles; with several high-profile vehicle fires making headlines worldwide.
The Great Hall of People building, located in Beijing, China.
Among the new regulations enforced in January is an emphasis on the requirements for manufacturers to make improvements in battery system safety regarding thermal diffusion, mechanical shock, external fire, overcharge, and over-temperature, among other things.
These cover the majority of the problems that can result in thermal runaway and/or fires in electric vehicle batteries.
Additionally, the standards say that if one battery cell suffers from thermal runaway, it should cause no fire or explosion for at least five minutes, so as to give the vehicle’s occupants enough time to slow down, stop, escape, and move to a place of safety. If thermal runaway is detected, EVs must notify the occupants immediately.
Other standards relating to electrical safety include more stringent requirements for preventing water ingress, ensuring proper insulation, and a requirement for battery monitoring. It is not only consumer EVs that these standards apply to, either.
Electric buses, which naturally have larger batteries, must meet more rigorous standards due to their batteries inherently having more demand placed on it from the vehicle. For example, the Chinese standards demand that electric buses go under an appraisal of “flame-retardant performance” in addition to thermal runaway prevention and a battery management unit.
Although China is the first country to enforce regulations like this, it is very likely that other nations will follow suit in the future as more and more vehicles on the road rely on battery power. Widespread standards similar to those being introduced in China may give rise to opportunities for design engineers and manufacturers to innovate with new materials for battery systems that mitigate and effectively contain fire or prevent other problems such as water ingress and punctures.