GM Teaches NHTSA How to Prevent Chevrolet Volt Fires

By Joel Arellano | November 14, 2011
Last week, we reported that a third Chevrolet Volt caught on fire which, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was traced to the electric car hybrid's lithium ion batteries. Now reports indicate that the federal agency may have unwittingly contributed to the fire. General Motors and the NHTSA are currently still investing the fire and have not released any official news beyond the battery causing the fire. Allvoices, though, has posted a possible cause. The site reports that the NHTSA had subjected the third Chevy Volt to its "pole" test where the EV was slammed against a wall to simulate a side impact crash. The vehicle was then put through a series of rollover tests to check for leaks. According to Allvoices, the NHTSA then parked the Volt tester without following GM's recommended protocols on crashed vehicles with the exception of draining the EV's gasoline. A coolant leak developed and reached the lithium ion batteries. That shouldn't have been an issue, states, Allvoices, except the coolant had crystallized due to the cold weather which could have lead to shorting out the batteries and the fire. Robert Peterson of GM Communications states the NHTSA apparently had not known the protocols on handling a crashed Chevrolet Volt, and has advised the federal agency since the above incident. Both parties continue to maintain the Volt and its hybrid battery and gasoline powertrain is no more dangerous than current gasoline-powered vehicles. As stated previously by Jim Federico, GM chief engineer for electric vehicles: “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: Allvoices