Chevy Volt….Just Too Hot to Stay On The Showroom Floor!

Pimp your ride and plump your weenie...all at the same time.

Heh….just how much would this bite if you kept it in your garage? 

(DetroitFreePress)…Following a fire in a Chevrolet Volt several weeks after a crash test, government officials are weighing the need for new safety rules that could require first responders to drain electric vehicles’ batteries after a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said today it had investigated a fire that occurred this spring, after the Volt extended-range electric vehicle underwent a 20 mile-per-hour, side-impact test for its five-star crash safety rating. The crash punctured the Volt’s lithium-ion battery, and after more than three weeks of sitting outside, the vehicle and several cars around it caught fire. No one was hurt. 

2011 Chevrolet Volt 16-kWH lithium-ion battery cutaway rendering.

General Motors believes the fire occurred because NHTSA did not drain the energy from the Volt’s battery following the crash, which is a safety step the automaker recommends, GM spokesman Rob Peterson said. NHTSA had not been told of the safety protocol, Peterson said.  Still, none of the other Volts the agency crash tested caught fire, even though they still had charged batteries, according to a NHTSA official who declined to be identified because of ongoing discussions with automakers. Automakers use Salesforce.com software to manage their clients.

“We don’t want to make it sound like this one incident could be the general case,” the official said. “We don’t see the risk of electric vehicles as being any greater than that for a gasoline vehicle.”  This is the only crashed Volt ever to catch fire, GM spokesman Greg Martin said.  NHTSA plans more testing of the Volt’s battery.

The fire’s cause – the battery puncture — led to questions about whether other automakers require batteries to be discharged of their energy following major crashes, the NHTSA official said. In addition, regulators are exploring protocols for who would do that – firefighters who respond first, for instance – and how quickly should they do it.

NHTSA is now reviewing the responses it has received from automakers and waiting for additional information from some carmakers as well. The official said it is too early to tell if the agency will issue a rule on discharging batteries

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About Ad rem

Millions of little gray cells wrapped in fur.
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35 Responses to Chevy Volt….Just Too Hot to Stay On The Showroom Floor!

  1. WeeWeed says:

    ROFL! Gee, I’m glad I didn’t run out and get one!

    Like

  2. Sharon says:

    “We don’t want to make it sound like this one incident could be the general case,” the official said.

    I’m sure. Idiots.

    And liars: they knew it WAS “the general case” because further up in the article it says,

    General Motors believes the fire occurred because NHTSA did not drain the energy from the Volt’s battery following the crash, which is a safety step the automaker recommends, GM spokesman Rob Peterson said. NHTSA had not been told [nice !] of the safety protocol ,” Peterson said.

    Like

  3. Awesome techno-post, Puddy!

    I love Lithium Ion and Lithium Polymer batteries, and have many pieces of them laying around the GruntCave (kinda like Zophiel’s Potions Lab, but with different smells) for various purposes. But GM and the Feds will never tell you the truth about them. They work great, but they’re always a fire hazard, especially while charging, because each cell (and there are thousands on the Volt) must be monitored individually by control circuits to avoid overcharge. Overcharge = kaboom. And guess when your Chevy Volt is charging? Out in your garage, while you’re sleeping. So if you have one, don’t sleep. 😉 At least the gasoline is safely in the tanks out there, and not being heated continuously all night long just short of the flashpoint! Of course, we won’t really have a choice after they mandate that we all buy them.

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    • Ad rem says:

      Aaawwwwgggg….you’re just too smart for my own good Grunt! Hey….a question from the DH….about 5 yr. ago a bunch HP laptops would catch fire. Was that due to the batteries too…inquiring minds?

      Like

      • A-yup.
        http://www.engadget.com/2009/05/14/70-000-hp-laptop-batteries-recalled-due-to-fire-hazard/
        I think it was probably a defect in the charge monitoring. Don’t get me wrong, Li-Ion batteries are the only decent batteries out there for electronics, and energy storage is just inherently a little risky, so these devices should always be treated with caution. That is, cell phones, laptops, etc. Probably shouldn’t be left charging all the time and kept away from drapes and stuff. Just my opinion. Let me know if DH disagrees.

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        • Ad rem says:

          DH replies….NOW he knows why the instructions on the Makita battery pack say to charge away from gasoline and other flammable materials.
          (Scary knowing he left it charging overnight once too!) Photobucket

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        • Good advice there Grunt. I had a near miss, actually a near hit, accident with an exploding (overcharged) battery before while using a rapid charge pack that I forgot to unplug. Damned thing just about blew my workbench in half and embedded the charger in the drywall. I learned right quick to unplug battery chargers if I wasn’t watching.

          I worries me when we leave our laptops and cell phones plugged in overnight too. 😦

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          • Holy crud, SD! I’ve never seen one go ballistic like that! Mostly I’ve just seen ’em go up in flames. What type of battery pack was that, do you know? Was it an older NiCad? Or a newer Lithium? Just curious…

            Like

          • Coyote says:

            I use dead switches and 20+ aH Acid Gel batteries when I go off grid. Photovoltaics and inverters are tricky, but when used right, I’ve never had a problem. Wires can get hot, but you do have to watch them. I’ve yet to have an exploding battery problem.
            It’s amazing that all the EEs used to design and test these systems in cars that these problems STILL occur. R&D keeps getting systems handed back to them by the finance department and told to “take the cost out of that system” and this is what happens.
            I could only imagine what Shelby would do if some pencil necked bean counter came back and told Shelby to “take the cost out of that part/system”. Shelby would have kicked him out of the garage and stuffed a greasy mechanic’s rag in his mouth. Damned bean counters.

            Like

  4. stellap says:

    Here’s a little more info about the circumstances preceding the Volt fire:

    “GM believes that after sitting for three weeks, exposed to the weather, the coolant crystallized and interacted with the battery, causing the fire, said GM spokesman Rob Peterson.

    In a normal crash, the coolant interacting with a Volt battery would not cause a fire, he said.

    GM’s protocol is to drain the battery of energy after a crash, but the automaker hadn’t informed NHTSA at the time of the test, the company said. In an actual roadway crash, GM would have been notified via OnStar and would have removed the battery for research.”

    From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20111112/AUTO01/111120324/Auto-safety-regulators-probe-Volt-battery-fire#ixzz1dXPUOEdO

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    • Barnslayer says:

      That let’s me out. My car sits outside year round in sun, rain, snow. I’d also like to ask the GM expert… what the heck is a “normal crash”? After a crash in that thing I doubt draining the battery is going to be high on your to do list.

      Like

      • stellap says:

        A regular crash is one that an average owner would have, not one that the Federal Government caused in order to test the car (NHTSA). Being outside was only a problem because the battery was damaged and coolant had spilled on it. Anyway, if you had a Volt, you would have to have somewhere to charge it, which you wouldn’t have if you park on the street.

        Like

        • Barnslayer says:

          I get what you’re saying but I don’t see how they (GM) knows what kind of damage an accident is going to create. I park in my driveway because we use the garage as a workshop (woodworking hobby) and Costco pantry plus our gas-guzzling, capitalist pig Tahoe won’t fit… ceiling is too low.

          Like

          • Ad rem says:

            Are Tahoes really that big…or is your garage a low one? Darn….I had the Tahoe on my short list too. (I almost typed sh**t….but I am learning. 😉 )

            Like

            • Barnslayer says:

              It’s the same height as a Suburban but not as long. Mine is a ’03 (’03? that went quickly) and it’s about 74″ high at the luggage rails on the roof. Our garage door opening is also about 74″ (the ceiling is 84″). Subtract the space the garage door, track, pipes lights etc. and any utility vehicle we get is an outdoor cat.

              Like

            • WeeWeed says:

              Get one with no luggage racks, Puddy. My ancient piece doesn’t have ’em – those racks and bigger tires will really mess you up as far as garaging. Makes ’em taller.

              Like

              • Barnslayer says:

                No rack on the roof? How am I supposed to get my Christmas tree home?

                Like

                • stellap says:

                  Get an artificial one from China. The real ones go up like a Roman candle if you have an electrical short, you know (just watched that rerun of MythBusters; they called the segment a public service announcement).

                  Like

      • garnette says:

        This brings up a question to me. The idea behind the Volt is that you have something attached in your garage where you can plug in your car at night to charge it up for the next day. Okay, so maybe if you don’t have a garage, you have an outside outlet that you can use to charge your car. Of course, I wonder if that would set people up for practical jokes of having their cars unplugged during the night. But, when you really look at the marketing audience for Volt they are the urban environmentalists. Most of them live in buildings that have no parking or they have to pay rent for a parking space or worse yet stake a claim on a place to park on the street. So, my question is how are they going to charge their cars.

        I know I am thinking to logical. /sarc

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  5. I predict that in 2-3 years, someone will make an after-market kit to adapt a ULE mo-gas or diesel engine to this POS. This car will go down (no pun intended) with the Briklin “safety car”, the Edsel and the lesser-known lemons from the past.

    Like

  6. garnette says:

    Sounds like the Volt needs to be marketed as the Pinto of the 21st century.

    I wonder if now first responders are going to have to carry a cheat sheet with them so they can determine what they need to do to a car to protect the area from the toxins used. Gee, that sounds somewhat like the steps in place to get rid of the new cool mercury light bulbs. How many toxins and poisons are we getting in our systems on a daily basis thanks to Uncle Sam?

    Like

    • stellap says:

      At least the Pinto was cheap! And a really crappy car, I might add, but you probably already know that. Same situation too. 1970’s was the gas crisis, remember? Everyone trying to get small cars out there fast. Now the electric car is being rushed to market to meet a perceived need.

      ADD: Actually, gasoline is a pretty dangerous substance, but we’re used to it by now. The battery thing is just a new hazard.

      Like

    • Ad rem says:

      Team Barry just keeps bringin’ good things to life. Actually the Pinto wasn’t all that bad…IMHO. The MIL used to drive one….occasionally let my DH drive it on dates. Now the Pacer….there was a lemon. 😉

      Like

  7. Auntie Lib says:

    Chevy Vegas weren’t all that great either.

    Like

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