Chevy Volt Fires Fuel NHTSA Investigation Into All Lithium Ion Car Batteries

By Joel Arellano | November 11, 2011
Last April, a garage fire in Barkhamsted, Conn., caught the autosphere's attention because of a possibility that the parked Chevrolet Volt may have started the blaze. A second garage and Volt fire, located in Mooresville, North Carolina, is under investigation by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and General Motors. Now a third Volt-related fire is flashing across the autosphere. According to Bloomberg, the third Chevy Volt ignited three weeks after a side-impact at the NHTSA's Wisconsin-based testing facility. Agency investigators determined the Volt's lithium-ion battery as the source of the fire, which was severe enough to damage the other nearby vehicles. The NHTSA is continuing its private investigation. The NHTSA's public comments at this time seem focus on first responders—such as fire fighters—and other vehicle accident personnel like tow truck drivers, and informing them how to deal with vehicles like the Volt.
“Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe the Volt or other electric vehicles are at a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles," states the federal agency in an issued e-mail message. "In fact, all vehicles—both electric and gasoline-powered—have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash." Greg Martin, Director of Public Policy for GM, agrees, stating the automaker has extensively tested the Volt and established protocols on dealing with its systems in the event of an accident. Martin issued the following statement from GM chief engineer for electric vehicles Jim Federico: “First and foremost, I want to make this very clear: the Volt is a safe car.  We are working cooperatively with NHTSA as it completes its investigation.  However, NHTSA has stated that based on available data, there’s no greater risk of fire with a Volt than a traditional gasoline-powered car. “Safety protocols for electric vehicles are clearly an industry concern. At GM, we have safety protocols to depower the battery of an electric vehicle after a significant crash. “We are working with other vehicle manufacturers, first responders, tow truck operators, and salvage associations with the goal of implementing industry-wide protocols.” Source: Bloomberg, General Motors/Chevrolet