GM to Strengthen Chevy Volt Battery Pack in Response to NHTSA Investigation

By Joel Arellano | January 05, 2012
Late last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that one of its Chevrolet Volts had caught on fire during testing. The fire was later traced to the electric car's battery system. Neither the federal agency nor Chevy-owner General Motors issued any recall, both maintaining that the EV is safe, and opted to continue investigation into the matter. Today, General Motors updated the press about several enhancements on the Chevrolet Volt to prevent the NHTSA-caused battery fires. To recap, the Chevrolet Volt battery fires were induced when the hatchback, after a simulated side impact crash, was rotated for several minutes at a time to simulate a (unrealistic) slow car roll, then left parked with engine fluids and battery pack un-drained for days, if not weeks. (Also unrealistic. Who leaves a damaged car in a garage for such a period of time?) Leaking coolant around the Volt's battery system would then make contact with the battery's circuit board, spark, and cause the fire. GM announced it will be modifying all current and future Chevrolet Volts in the U.S. and abroad by:
  • Add more shielding around the Chevy Volt's battery cage to strengthen it against being pierced in the case of an accident.
  • Installation of a battery coolant reservoir sensor.
  • Installation of a bracket on top of the reservoir to prevent coolant overfill.
The enhancements are part of what GM calls its "Customer Satisfaction Program". Chevy Volt owners will be notified to bring their cars to their local dealerships starting next month. Until then and during the enhancements (which can take a minimum of 2-3 hours), GM will continue to offer loaner vehicles free of charge. GM's buyback program, which it started shortly after NHTSA announced its investigation, is still continuing as well. The automaker states that less than 250 owners of the approximately 5,000 Volts sold have requested loan vehicles or asked to sell back their Volt at the time of this post. Mary Barra, GM Senior VP of Global Product Development, says, "These enhancements and modifications will address the concerns raised by the (NHTSA) severe crash tests. There are no changes to the Volt battery pack or cell chemistry as a result of these actions. We have tested the Volt's battery system for more than 285,000 hours, or 25 years, of operation. We're as confident as ever that the cell design is among the safest on the market."
Source: General Motors / Chevrolet