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    Chevrolet Volt Fire Prompts Investgation Into Batteries



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    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into the safety of lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles after a Chevrolet Volt caught on fire after a crash test three weeks earlier.

    The agency has asked all manufacturers who currently have electric vehicles on the road or plan to introduce one to provide information on the protocols they have established for discharging and handling their lithium-ion batteries, including how to lower risk of a fire. This is to

    NHTSA said it had investigated an incident involving a fire in a Chevy Volt after a crash test on May 12. The test involved a Chevrolet Volt crashing into a pole which caused the battery pack in the center tunnel and rear seat to crack. Then, NHTSA followed procedure to put the car on a rotisserie and rotate it 90 degrees every five minutes to see any fluid leakage. Coolant leaked out of the battery pack but the components stayed put.

    Three weeks after the test, the Volt caught on fire at NHTSA's storage facility in Wisconsin. NHTSA said the damage caused the fire.

    After the news, both NHTSA and General Motors both independently replicated the crash test and rotation. In both crashes, neither one could reproduce the conditions.

    GM spokesman Greg Martin said if NHTSA had followed certain protocols after the crash test, there would have been no fire.

    "We've developed very stringent safety protocols on the disposal and safe handling of the battery packs on the Chevy Volt. Those obviously were not followed in this case. GM also has also been unable to replicate the incident."

    NHTSA in a statement today said,

    “As manufacturers continue to develop vehicles of any kind -- electric, gasoline, or diesel -- it is critical that they take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of drivers and first responders both during and after a crash, 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. In fact, all vehicles -- both electric and gasoline-powered -- have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash.”

    The agency says the information from automakers will be used to inform emergency responders, tow-truck operators, salvage yards, and consumers about the risks and how to handle an EV in a accident.

    We'll be keeping a close eye on this story.

    Source: Bloomberg, Detroit News, Green Car Reports, Jalopnik

    Statement from GM on Page 2


    GM Statement in Response to NHTSA Investigation

    DETROIT – The following statement can be attributed Jim Federico, General Motors 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.”

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    GM already put out a first responders information guide on the Volt many, many months ago. I have a copy that is too large in size to post here, but can email to anyone that would like it.

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    Concerns me a bit working in the collision industry. Makes me want to keep them out of the shop for concern of not following protocol to the letter.

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    Concerns me a bit working in the collision industry. Makes me want to keep them out of the shop for concern of not following protocol to the letter.

    I don't know why this got voted down... its totally true. There were several stories on the news today, and the reporters explained that this impacts the collision industry and salvage industry more than the end user. I think its a valid concern, at this point, to err on the side of caution, because no body shop needs their shop burned to the ground, losing a bunch of other customers' cars in the process... and our environment doesn't need anymore junkyard fires.

    Lithium batteries are not like lead acid, where the steel piercing the battery pack vaporizes after shorting the cells... instead the Lithium ion elements go into thermal runaway, until the unit catches fire... regardless if its a Prius, Volt or Leaf.

    Sounds like they didn't dispose of the battery pack properly.

    Well, no... typical of NHTSA, they saved the wreck for further study. Now they know not to do that.

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    It was voted down because some greenie doesn't think about what happens... when green turns to a charred black and a livelihood is gone. What am I going to do, pick flowers for a living?

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    GM already put out a first responders information guide on the Volt many, many months ago. I have a copy that is too large in size to post here, but can email to anyone that would like it.

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    I don't drive a tow truck, I work in a bodyshop. We are not "first responders". This fire loss occurred a good while after the crash test... you know, when a car is likely sitting inside a bodyshop, torn down for a damage estimate.

    For something weird like this, I'd consult Alldata, I assume GM supplied them with the necessary info... but it's still daunting when one realizes how dangerous all electrified cars are after certain crashes. I do know that every stinkin' Prius we've worked on goes dead after being parked for several days, always need a jump box.

    If a gasoline-powered car is going to burn, it will do so at the scene as the fuel system is compromised and a spark or hot surface ignites the fuel. With these electric jobbies, the idea that degradation over several days can lead to fire is a legitimate concern.

    Edited by ocnblu
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    GM already put out a first responders information guide on the Volt many, many months ago. I have a copy that is too large in size to post here, but can email to anyone that would like it.

    I have a copy of that, as well. Maybe you guys should read it. It tells you about what cables to cut, where the Manual Service Disconnect is, etc... but NOWHERE does it mention that a pierced battery pack may cause a fire... either immediately, or in three weeks time.

    Time for greenie to rate me down for speaking the truth.

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    I don't drive a tow truck, I work in a bodyshop. We are not "first responders". This fire loss occurred a good while after the crash test... you know, when a car is likely sitting inside a bodyshop, torn down for a damage estimate.

    For something weird like this, I'd consult Alldata, I assume GM supplied them with the necessary info... but it's still daunting when one realizes how dangerous all electrified cars are after certain crashes. I do know that every stinkin' Prius we've worked on goes dead after being parked for several days, always need a jump box.

    If a gasoline-powered car is going to burn, it will do so at the scene as the fuel system is compromised and a spark or hot surface ignites the fuel. With these electric jobbies, the idea that degradation over several days can lead to fire is a legitimate concern.

    Just because it works differently than how you are used to doesn't make it "bad."

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    Just because it works differently than how you are used to doesn't make it "bad."

    I don't think anyone here is describing this as "bad" technology... but this is real problem with these battery packs and the car makers have obviously not informed enough people to the dangers of Lithium Ion batteries... otherwise, the NHTSA would have taken the appropriate action to protect the wreck.

    What is the appropriate action? Honestly, I don't see anyone suggesting a course of action. Removal of the battery pack immediately in _any_ accident for inspection? What if its damaged internally? Immediate recycling of the battery pack? Who even takes these yet? In any case, in order to reduce the damage of possible fire, the battery pack is required to be quarantined. That's space that costs money, if its a parking spot, a warehouse or a container being shipped overseas full of battery packs to be recycled.

    Obviously, this is a problem for the Volt first because it has the biggest battery pack... and therefore is most likely to be damaged. GM needs to ensure EVERYONE including owners, tow truck drivers, body shops, recyclers and used car lots to know the risk.

    Quite frankly, GM, all along has towed the party line of "electric cars are safe, safe, safe"... and that is somewhat misleading.

    Are other Li Ion battery devices being irresponsible? Sure... look at the exploding Dells a couple years ago... and Dell still does not really tell people about the dangers of damaging a battery pack, aside from a couple questionably understandable gyphs on the pack itself. Luckily, nobody has taken a shank to the laptop recently.

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