Firefighters Put Out Converted Plug-In Prius-Blaze (photo via IJ photo/Alan Dep)

Firefighters Put Out Converted Plug-In Prius-Blaze (photo via IJ photo/Alan Dep)

This is sure to be controversial, so we'll premise this post with this: InsideEVs does not necessarily endorse or support the views presented by "the experts" at a forum organized by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

"The experts," which here refers to Yet-Ming Chiang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told US regulators that lithium-ion battery technology has failed to meet expectation on several fronts.

According to Chiang, li-ion battery sales are far below expectations and the technology's performance is not where battery makers claimed it would be a few years ago.  Furthermore, Chiang questions the overall safety of today's lithium-ion battery and says that the technology must be modified to ensure adequate safety.

NHSTA Volt Fire (click to enlarge)

NHSTA Volt Fire (click to enlarge)

Chiang was called to testify at the NTSB in regards to the batter-related issues on Boeing's Dreamliner aircraft.

Chiang is quoted as saying that 2008 projections that predicted the size of the lithium-ion market in 2011 "were off by more than a factor of 10."  Chiang added that these miscalculated assumptions "created a great deal of stress among those who manufacture batteries."  Some of those manufacturers went out of business, says Chiang.  But most of the ones that did were ill-equipped to ever survive, counters InsideEVs

Quoting Chiang:

"Even today there's a large (manufacturing) capacity worldwide that's not utilized and I attribute it mainly to the cost factor."

On the topic of safety, Chiang testified that 25 percent of a typical lithium-ion battery cell is flammable, which apparently increases the risk of fire, but as followers of electric vehicles know, cases of battery fires are rare and will almost certainly remain below the percentage of gas-fueled automobiles that have gone up in flames.

The safety issue, which in our eyes in a non-issue, seems to be the point of countless attacks on lithium-ion technology and on plug-in vehicles.  Will this lack-of-safety misconception ever fade?