Chevrolet Volt Owners Yawn at NHTSA Battery Fire Investigation

By Joel Arellano | November 30, 2011
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's current investigation of car fires possibly caused by the Chevrolet Volt's lithium-ion batteries has generated few sparks of panic among Volt owners. On the other hand, General Motors' lightning fast response to the issue has positively electrified not only the owners but the normally skeptical media. Much of the lackadaisical response is based on the fires themselves. As discussed in our posts, GM Teaches NHTSA How to Prevent Chevrolet Volt Fires and GM Offers Loaners as NHTSA Opens Chevy Volt Battery Investigation, the batteries ignited under unusual, if not extreme, conditions: 1) the Chevy Volt suffers a side impact crash, then undergoes several rolls; 2) the Volt's flammable systems like gasoline, coolant, and, especially the battery, are not drained or discharged as per standard procedures; and 3) the damaged vehicle is left alone for at least a week. The Chevrolet Volt at the federal agency's Wisconsin facility, for example, was left alone for three weeks before the non-discharged battery ignited and damaged the Volt and surrounding vehicles. The above scenario occurred during the NHTSA's testing of the Chevrolet Volt and not in any real-world crashes. GM points out that it normally sends investigation teams to accidents involving the Volt as part of its standard operating procedure. The automaker also states it's in the midst of training first team responders like firefighters on how to properly handle crashed Volt vehicles (like discharging the battery) and garages on how to store them. This is not unusual, especially with new technology: other automakers with hybrid and electric vehicles like Toyota have similar procedures.
Chevrolet Volt owners seem perfectly content with both the automaker and the NHTSA's explanations. GM not only personally contacted the 6,000 Volt owners about the situation but offers free loaner vehicles for those still nervous afterwards. There have been few takers, states the automaker, but it's been "a small number." One Chevrolet Volt owner who will not be requesting a loaner is Jeff Kaffee, who is the first person to purchase a Volt when it went on sale: "If they can't cut me out of the car in two or three weeks," Kaffee wrote in response to a concerned friend, "I guess it's not going to do me much good."'s take: In a world where 72 day marriages generate continuous headlines, we applaud our fellow reporters and the public for actually exercising common sense over the Volt battery issue. Source: USA Today, Wall Street Journal