Chevrolet Volt Fire Probe is Closed, NHTSA Says
By Mike Colias And Christina Rogers, Automotive News
U.S. safety regulators said Friday that they've closed an eight-week investigation into the Chevrolet Volt, concluding that the plug-in hybrid's battery doesn't pose a significant fire risk following a crash.
In a statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it "does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles."
The agency said that modifications intended to reinforce the Volt's 435-pound lithium-ion battery pack that General Motors announced on Jan. 5 should "reduce the potential" of the pack catching fire in the days or weeks following a crash.
In November, NHTSA opened an investigation after two incidents in which the Volt's battery pack either caught fire or emitted sparks in the days or weeks following crash tests.
An earlier battery fire occurred in June, three weeks after the agency completed side-impact testing on the Volt.
In a statement, GM said NHTSA's decision to close the investigation "is consistent with the results of our internal testing and assessment." The automaker reiterated that the change it's making to protect the battery pack "is intended to make a safe vehicle even safer."
The agency's clearing of the Volt helps GM avert a potential hit to its image. The automaker's executives have held up the revolutionary car as a symbol of innovation and fresh thinking at the post-bankruptcy GM.
Despite broad praise for the car, U.S. sales of 7,671 Volts last year fell short of GM's goal of 10,000 units.
GM executives cooperated with NHTSA's investigation but have maintained that the Volt is safe. Company executives say the voluntary fix will make the car "safer" by reinforcing the steel surrounding the battery pack to prevent it from being punctured during a crash. It also will add a sensor to the battery pack to monitor coolant leaks.
GM is asking its 8,000 Volt customers to visit their Chevy dealership to have the work done. Dealers will be ready to perform the work starting in February, GM said.
GM said that about 250 Volt owners have taken GM up on its offer to provide loaner vehicles or to buy back the car to quell any safety concerns during the probe.
NHTSA said it still is unaware of any real-world Volt crashes that have resulted in a battery fire. It said the agency took the "unusual step" of opening the investigation because it wanted to "ensure the safety of the driving public with emerging [electric vehicle] technology."
A U.S. House panel hearing is scheduled on Wednesday to scrutinize how GM and regulators handled the investigation of the fire risks. GM CEO Dan Akerson has agreed to testify.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is also expected to hear from David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Just Great, did you read about the NHTSA test? NHTSA wanted to puncture the battery pack on a Volt to see what would happen. In order to do that, they hit the car side impact, so hard, it flipped over. After the crash, they did not follow GM guidelines and discharge the battery. They let it sit outside for three weeks after the test and then the battery pack caught fire. It would not be much different then if a gas line leaked in a regular gas car after a crash and they let it sit outside leaking gas. NHTSA wanted to see if they could get the same results, so they did the test three more times before they could get a similar result. Again, the car did not catch fire until several days after the crash when they did not follow GM guidelines and discharge the battery. The Volt does have a 5 star crash rating from NHTSA.
Think about it. You've got yourself a fancy new hybrid, which you probably didn't pay cash in full for it, which means you probably took out a loan to get it, which means you almost certainly have insurance, which means if it's in a big enough accident that the battery MIGHT catch on fire, it's probably going to be totaled at an insurance adjustors lot, which means if it DOES catch on fire, guess what? You're getting a new car anyway. it's not going to burn your house down, so Who G.A.S.?
This is really a non issue. No one is going to park their mangled Volt in their garage after a horrible accident and Wait and See what happens.
Get off GM and the Volt's back.
I still wouldn't own one though.
I am not surprised that someone would comment on the Volt with little or no knowledge of technology. First off, the Volt was in development long before the bankruptcy and government takeover. Therefore, this conspiracy theory nonsense is just that. Secondly, the Volt does not run on gasoline. It has an auxiliary generator that uses gasoline to power the electric motor for extended trips. If one lives within a 35 mile round trip from their place of work, it will use no gasoline unless purging the system to avoid fuel breakdown. However, unlike other electric cars, should the driver want to take a trip to California from the east coast they would not require a second car or have to take 8hr recharge breaks. The 9 gallon tank would allow the driver to drive 349 mi on each fill up. The current mileage on my Volt is 113 mpg. It is 5 months old and has never had additional gas put in it from the first tank fill from the dealership. To my calculations, it would take me 13 gal. of gasoline to make the trip to my family in Pennsylvania from North Carolina. My Jeep takes 40 gal. of fuel to make the same trip. I suggest you stop watching Nissan commercials and get the facts before typing foolishness.
Finally, the fires occurred in crash test vehicles where the batteries were damaged and the energy was not discharged. This allowed heat to build up causing combustion. The fire that took place in Charlotte, NC was caused by improper wiring of the charging station on a non-dedicated circuit. That was determined by an evaluation by Duke Energy and the local Fire Marshall not the NTSB.
I am proud that American technology and innovation has finally placed a superior system out ahead of Toyota, Nissan, Honda and the like. I did not agree with the bailout. But, it forced GM to step up their quality and put truly competitive cars on the road again.
Maybe no cars are safe!
Everybody off the roads, NOW!
This fear mongering with a political bent is so sad...
The end of gas is not so near and why not have the option of an electric powered car...and having an electric car doesn't mean your rights are being restricted nor that your guns are going to be taken away.
Oh, and another thing...whoever thinks this car handles like a pregnant elephant has either never driven a Volt or ridden a pregnant elephant.
The argument about a 40mpg car is a good one. If you travel over the 35 mile limit on the battery, it would take a lot of time to make up the gas depending on your distance. However, 5 months with no gas bill is adding up quickly.
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