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Chevy Volt Passes Safety Investigation 200

An anonymous reader writes "A few months ago, reports of battery fires from crash-tested Chevy Volts caused the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open an investigation into the type of batteries used in the Volt and other EVs. That investigation has now concluded, and the NHTSA says the cars are safe. 'The agency and General Motors Co. know of no fires in real-world crashes. GM and federal safety officials say they believe the fires were caused by coolant leaking from damaged plastic casing around the batteries after side-impact collisions. The coolant caused an electrical short, which sparked battery fires seven days to three weeks after the crashes. GM announced earlier this month that it will add steel plates to about 12,000 existing Volts to protect the batteries in the event of a crash.'"
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Chevy Volt Passes Safety Investigation

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  • by Jesse_vd ( 821123 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @12:24AM (#38778589)

    Learn to read: "'The agency and General Motors Co. know of no fires in real-world crashes"

    The fires happened to crash-tested vehicles only

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 22, 2012 @12:27AM (#38778593)

    Except for the reported fires????

    Thankyou, I know, your're from the government and you're here to help.

    Did you miss the part where it says "no fires in real-world crashes"?

    How about the part where it says the fires occured "seven days to three weeks after the crashes"?

    Contrast that to the very real danger of fire in gasoline powered car. Explain how this is worse, and part of some gubmint conspiracy.

  • Simple (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 22, 2012 @12:38AM (#38778629)

    Gasoline fires happen at the time or minutes after the accident. Battery fires happen some random time later when the driver thinks that the vehicle is safe and the accident only caused a small physical damage. And the threat of fire is not only when the vehicle is in use. The fire can be started while the vehicle is inside of the garage and there is a room above where family members are sleeping..

  • Not in this case (Score:5, Informative)

    by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @12:51AM (#38778673)

    To have a battery penetration here, you would have to have a side intrusion into the car which extends about 2 feet in from the side of the car. Your side airbags will have gone off, the car likely isn't even drivable.

    No one is going to think their car had only small physical damage with this kind of wreck.

    And your statements about gas cars are also incorrect. I've followed cars on the highway which clearly were leaking gas. This isn't a fire hazard because it's been more than a few minutes since the wreck? I've seen cars just plain catch fire on the side of the road with no wreck at all.

    And gas cars can catch fire in garages too. []

  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:06AM (#38778725)

    It's is a hybrid. But you can drive between 35 and 40 miles without gas AT FULL SPEED. I have a friend who has one and drives for weeks at at time with no gas. I was with him when he drove up a several mile long grade of about 3-4% at 80 miles an hour on electricity only as part of the 32.5 drive to his house.

    I don't know where you get the idea of short distances at low speeds from, but you're wrong. Perhaps you're thinking of the Prius PHEV or something else?

    So the statement 'doesn't rely on a big oil corporation to be useful' is accurate.

  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:24AM (#38778787)

    Yes, the battery must be drained after an accident. But this isn't much different than a gas car which requires the gas tank be drained after an accident. NHTSA in fact drains the gas tanks on gas cars (including the Volt!) BEFORE they wreck them because of the danger of the gasoline.

    The draining of the battery is no big deal. It won't toast the battery. In this kind of wreck the battery has sustained damage that means it must be inspected and rebuilt whether it is drained or not. Also, the car is totaled after a wreck of this magnitude anyway, so the additional expense of draining the battery isn't a big deal.

  • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:24AM (#38778789)

    yeah the volt's batteries aren't safe like a big tank of hydrocarbons under your ass.

    I'm not aware of any car that puts a big tank of hydrocarbons under your ass, though my old car did put one behind the passenger seat.

    The Honda Fit does. The Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 from 1972-1979 did as well.

  • by ChrisCampbell47 ( 181542 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @01:34AM (#38778817)

    So your solution to protecting the batteries are adding heavy Steel plates to the car. Which in turn adds more weight and gives less mileage. We can't find a metal that is lighter and stronger?

    They've said the additional bracket (it's a stretch to call it "steel plates" has it's not exactly armor) weighs about 3-4 pounds and will have no noticeable effect on efficiency.

    Photo of the bracket is here: []

    From this excellent overview of the actual "fixes" that GM will be doing to customers that CHOOSE to bring their Volt in for it: []

    Also, you might want to google "Volt high strength steel". The car has some of the highest structural rigidity in the industry. Yet another way in which the Volt is demonstrating a big leap forward in automotive technology.

  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @02:11AM (#38778951) Homepage

    They'll still end up bankrupt if they can't do any better than this.

    Don't worry, they're doing okay [].

  • by rubley ( 121645 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @02:35AM (#38779037) Homepage

    Unlike you, I own a Volt, so, unlike you, I don't need to lie about the numbers.

    It gets 25 (winter) to 46 (mild weather) miles per charge for me. When the battery runs low and the gas engine is powering the car, it delivers 38-40 MPG depending on speed. My lifetime economy (4.75 months, 4350 miles) is 255 MPG. I'd say that's pretty good, considering my Lexus was getting 19 MPG on the same commute.

    Apparently you're also not smart enough to do the math, it turns out the Volt is cheaper than the average car.

    $45.5k sticker (loaded)
    $7.5k tax credit (complain about this and I'll complain about the child deductions I'm funding with my six figure income)
    $11k gas savings (5 years, for me)
    = $27k gas vehicle equivalent (the average new car sale price in the US is ~$29k )

    If you're still not convinced the Volt is a good idea, I suggest you start reading this blog []

  • Real experience (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sithech ( 858269 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @02:38AM (#38779051)
    I last put gas in my Volt on 11/20/2011 (7 gallons). I have driven 2,358 miles since then, using a total of 5.4 gallons. Mostly on freeways at speeds between 45 and 75 mph depending on traffic. There's a public charger across the street from work, which is 31 miles from my house.

    My best ever all electric range is 51.3 miles. My worst ever is 33.5.

    My engine does not turn on ever unless the temperature is below 25F or the battery is at the designed lower limit of state of charge.

    The car handles and drives wonderfully. I have, in 13,500 miles, rotated the tires. I will have to change the oil in a couple years. My lifetime average mpg is 158 mpg. Because I changed to a time of use schedule I have a lower electric bill now than I did before buying the car.

    Hippocrates says "There are two things, knowledge and opinion, one of which makes the possessor really to know, the other to be ignorant."

  • by Nos. ( 179609 ) <andrew.thekerrs@ca> on Sunday January 22, 2012 @02:46AM (#38779081) Homepage

    I live is SE Saskatchewan. This winter is hardly a fair example (its been very warm here with the exception of the past week). However, even in an average winter, we would rarely see as cold as -25C as a high for more than a few days in a row. So what this says to me, is even though I thought the opposite, the Volt may actually be a reasonable car here. Even if its not the most efficient choice during the extreme cold, we're talking maybe less than a week on average in any give year that it drops below those temperatures. That means, that >98% of the time, this is the most efficient choice of vehicle in these climates.

  • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @06:33AM (#38779733) Journal

    On average, there is another car fire in the United States every 109 seconds []. (PDF warning)

    Not all of them are the result of accidents. Food for thought.

  • by adolf ( 21054 ) <> on Sunday January 22, 2012 @08:54AM (#38780159) Journal

    The batteries are themselves a spark source which means that if they are damaged they are much more likely to catch fire. Gasoline tanks in most cars are on the opposite side than the engine and all the electrical parts, so even if they leak the chance of catching fire is small.

    Is that what you think?

    There's "electrical parts" all over a modern car, including around and even inside of the fuel tank.

    And any gasoline leaking from a fuel tank tends to flow in a very specific direction, which might introduce it to other possible ignition sources. (I think the direction is called "downhill," and the means of propulsion is called "gravity." Please feel free to correct me if I've got these terms wrong.)

  • by cvtan ( 752695 ) on Sunday January 22, 2012 @09:14AM (#38780209)
    1955 Jeep CJ5 had the gas tank under the driver's seat, so there is prior art.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.