* Problematic batteries show signs of short circuit
* Batteries may have experienced excessive shock in testing
* Mitsubishi Motors still trying to find cause
By Sophie Knight
TOKYO, April 10 Mitsubishi Motors Corp
will extend its production and shipment stoppage of its
Outlander plug-in hybrids until it finds the cause of an
overheating lithium-ion battery in one of the vehicles, the
automaker said on Wednesday.
The company stopped production and shipments in late March
as lithium-ion battery technology faces heightened scrutiny
after problems with batteries in Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner
Batteries on the Outlander are supplied by a venture called
Lithium Energy Japan, owned by Japan's GS Yuasa Corp,
Mitsubishi Corp and Mitsubishi Motors. Kyoto-based GS
Yuasa is also the battery maker for Boeing's Dreamliner.
Ryugo Nakao, managing director of Mitsubishi Motors, told
reporters there were two other cases in which Outlander
batteries had signs of short-circuits and where abnormal battery
voltage was detected - one where a customer in Tokyo could not
start running the vehicle, and another where a car in a
dealership in Gifu prefecture would not charge properly.
In the first case, the battery also short-circuited and
emitted a strange odour, he said. The company found that a part
of its battery pack had emitted heat and a resin part around
that had melted.
Mitsubishi Motors was exploring the possibility that the
batteries may have experienced excessive shock when they were
being placed onto a testing machine, he said.
The executive could not say when the automaker will resume
production because it will not do so until it has found the
cause. While the company aims to finish the investigation by the
end of April, Nakao could not confirm when it would be
Separately, a lithium-ion battery fire in a i-MiEV electric
vehicle at a Mitsubishi factory may have a similar cause to the
problems in the Outlander battery, but Mitsubishi had been
unable to confirm the exact cause in either case, Nakao said.
Two companies supply batteries for the i-MiEV - Lithium
Energy Japan and Toshiba Corp. Mitsubishi Motors has
stopped using the Lithium Energy Japan batteries but is
continuing to produce and ship i-MiEV vehicles by using
Toshiba-supplied batteries, a company spokesman said.
He added that the pace of production and shipments had
slowed significantly but declined to give the specific
production and shipment figures.
Mitsubishi Motors has sold 4,000 Outlander plug-in hybrid
cars to date and has received 4,000 more orders. The vehicle is
only sold in Japan, although it plans to sell the hybrid in
Europe starting in July.
By end-February, it had sold 8,400 i-MiEVs in Japan and