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Chevy Volt Subject of Probe Due to Post-crash Fire Risk

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has revealed that it is formally investigating the safety of the Chevy Volt following a fire that occurred after routine NHTSA testing. The Administration said in a statement released November 25 that it will conduct a safety defect investigation to assess the risk of fire in Chevy Volts that have been in serious crashes.

The NHTSA says it crashed a Chevy Volt as part of an NCAP test to measure the vehicle's ability to protect occupants in a side collision. The Administration says that the Volt's battery was damaged during the test, which took place in May of this year, and the coolant line was ruptured. Three weeks later, a fire occurred involving the test vehicle and the NHTSA says the damage done during the crash was what led to the fire. NHTSA says it this month tried to replicate the test and subsequent fire in further tests.

"In an effort to recreate the May test, NHTSA conducted three tests last week on the Volt's lithium-ion battery packs that intentionally damaged the battery compartment and ruptured the vehicle's coolant line," it said in a statement. The agency goes on to say that a test on November 16 did not result in fire, but did result in a temporary temperature increase one day later. The battery tested on November 17 caught fire seven days later, on November 24. Finally, the battery pack tested on November 18 began to emit sparks and smoke within hours of testing.

The agency says it's currently working with the DOE, DOD, and GM to assess the cause and implications of the November 24 fire. Though NHTSA says it's not aware of any crashes that have resulted in battery-related fires in Chevy Volts or other vehicles with lithium-ion batteries, it is concerned that the damage to the Volt's batteries as part of tests designed to replicate real world crash scenarios have resulted in fire and is opening a safety defect investigation of Chevy Volts.

GM commented that since July, it has implemented a post crash protocol that includes the depowering of the battery after a severe crash, returning the battery to a safe and low-powered state, and assured customers that the Volt is safe and doesn't present "undue risk as part of normal operation or immediately after a severe crash."

"The Volt is safe and does not present undue risk as part of normal operation or immediately after a severe crash," the company said. "GM and the agency's focus and research continues to be on battery performance, handling, storage and disposal after a crash or other significant event, like a fire, to better serve first and secondary responders. There have been no reports of comparable incidents in the field."

  • captaincharisma
    yea fire risk...thats what happens when you plug it into the same power bar as your outdoor xmas lights :)
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    lol, gotta love chevy. A few years late, and then they try setting their customers on fire :)
    Reply
  • td854
    I can't tell if this study or whatever you want to call it is attacking electric vehicle safety or not but I'm pretty sure a tank of gasoline is going to be a bigger concern for fire than batteries. Of course the Volt has both, but, y'know, just sayin'.
    Reply
  • I thought damn hard about getting a Chevy Volt, but in the end, it was this kind of "Chevy quality" that made me decide to wait until Honda or Toyota came out with a similar concept.
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  • captaincharisma
    from this chevy doesn't have the possibility like toyota where there issues really did turn out to be nothing but bad drivers
    Reply
  • stingstang
    It couldn't be more dangerous than a tank full of combustible liquid. (...though it has one of those, too)
    Reply
  • jj463rd
    Yep those Lithium Ion batteries are very dangerous.That's been known for quite a long while.Perhaps they should have used the much safer longer lasting Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries instead.Still I view electric cars as highly inefficient because of their heavy mass.Most of what's being transported is a very heavy vehicle rather than the weight of the driver,passengers,cargo and usually it's just a single wasteful occupant.
    Electric power makes vastly more sense on lightweight short range vehicles like electric powered bicycles where they get around 1,000 mpg equivalency.
    Reply
  • jellico
    td854I can't tell if this study or whatever you want to call it is attacking electric vehicle safety or not but I'm pretty sure a tank of gasoline is going to be a bigger concern for fire than batteries. Of course the Volt has both, but, y'know, just sayin'.We've been making gas tanks a lot longer than we've been making high-capacity lithium-ion batteries. Basically, nothing short of a leaking tank and a fire or spark will ignite the fuel. Conversely, LI batteries are notorious for becoming unstable after even minor damage. And, unfortunately, you will have no indication that your battery has become dangerous until it starts heating up shortly before exploding. Just saying.
    Reply
  • sixdegree
    GM should just install an automatic fire extinguisher near the battery array and call it a day. Or goes the extra mile and install some mechanical device to jettison the battery array to the sky in case of severe crash.
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  • house70
    jellicoWe've been making gas tanks a lot longer than we've been making high-capacity lithium-ion batteries. Basically, nothing short of a leaking tank and a fire or spark will ignite the fuel. Conversely, LI batteries are notorious for becoming unstable after even minor damage. And, unfortunately, you will have no indication that your battery has become dangerous until it starts heating up shortly before exploding. Just saying.Yes, and cars have been blowing up ever since the gas tank has been invented. A leaking tank and a spark are easy to come by in case of a crash and a bit of misfortune. Is not like every crash will result in a fire, but same goes for the Li-Ion batteries (not every time they heated up and caught fire after the crash tests; if every test was followed by an explosion, they would have abandoned the idea long ago). In case of a gas tank, you also have no indication until you smell gasoline, and then a fireball is the norm. Just saying.
    Reply