Chevrolet Volt Battery Issues Growing, Were Safety Findings Suppressed by the NHTSA?

Quietman ~PWCM~JLA 2011/12/06 17:35:19
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"Following on from the announcement that GM is looking at redesigning the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery system in the wake of several highly publicized fires resulting from test crashes, comes further news that both the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration delayed disclosure of their original findings by months.

Apparently, way back in June, General Motors heard about a Volt fire that happened three weeks after said vehicle was crash tested, yet it wasn’t until November that the company, nor NHTSA disclosed there was a potential problem, urging both dealers and customers to drain the battery pack immediately following an accident.

As a result the public relations nightmare surrounding Chevy’s halo vehicle appears to be deepening, though a good deal of the blame in this case also rests with NHTSA.

Joan Claybrook, a former adminstrator at NHTSA believes part of the reason for the delay was the “fragility of Volt sales.” Yet she also believes that “NHTSA could have put out a consumer alert, not to tell them [customers] for six months makes no sense to me.”

GM designed a complex cooling system for the Volt’s lithium ion battery pack to help regulate its temperature (lithium-ion units are known for overheating), yet until July it hadn’t finalized a standard proceedure to power down the battery system, the Volt had already been on sale in the US for six months at that juncture.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which crash tested a Volt back in February reported no incidents of fire as resulting from the accident, yet when a second crash test was performed in August, General Motors sent a technician to power down the battery.

An interesting point on the subject been raised by Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center of Auto Safety in Washington D.C. He said that he is “surprised that NHTSA didn’t drain the battery after crash testing as it is standard procedure to empty the fuel tank on conventional gasoline powered vehicles.” He also says that the NHTSA incident underlines the need for “greater transparency when conducting crash tests,” as well as setting proper industry standards when it comes to new technologies.

A spokesman for GM said the company felt it didn’t need to initially disclose the issue because the original fire was an isolated occurrence and happened some time after the vehicle was crashed. “It’s kind of odd in many respects,” said Rob Peterson. “The question became: What was making this happen and what do we have to do?”

Nonetheless in wake of the findings; GM is now working with both NHTSA and the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop standards for all electric vehicles when it comes to crash testing. It’s also continuing with its program of providing concerned Volt owners with free loaner vehicles; so far 33 of roughly 5,000 customers have signed up."

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  • relic 2011/12/06 19:00:59
    Corruption in Obama's Whitehouse? Who woulda thunk.
  • Max 2011/12/06 18:04:35
    It looks like they were hoping the problems were just random and not a big problem.
  • ElliPonto 2011/12/06 18:00:15
    All Toyota and Honda Hybrids are not tested charged during the crash tests to prevent fires. So is it fair that the Chevrolet Volt is tested charged, the Nissan Leaf lailed each test until tested completely discharged.
  • Quietma... ElliPonto 2011/12/06 18:05:36
    Quietman   ~PWCM~JLA
    Links to verify your claims.
  • ElliPonto Quietma... 2011/12/06 18:08:48
    just go to the NHTSA and the IIHS sites. The amount of batteries could cause an explosion in the Nissan Leaf and Toyota / Honda Hybrids. The Chevrolet Volt has few and smaller batteries. In fact the Ford Hybrids are tested with discharge batteries too.
  • Quietma... ElliPonto 2011/12/06 18:12:15
    Quietman   ~PWCM~JLA
    So basically what you are saying is that these types of vehicles shouldn't be on our highways.
  • ElliPonto Quietma... 2011/12/06 18:15:12
    Well, not on the highway really.
  • WF - Ru... Quietma... 2011/12/06 18:23:55
    WF - Rumpelstiltskin -PWCM~JLA
    My dad is a Parks and Wild Life Ranger. Part of the PWLRs is fire control. Firefighters now have to carry special equipment to handle these Hybrid accidents. Those wonderful orange cables you see under the hood. A fully charged hybrid from Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Ford and Hyndai could turn a man into a piece of charcoal in a single second. We are not talking 240 Volt, we are talking as much as times the voltages and a lot more amps behind it.

    I watch as a Honda Insight with passengers sit against a tree awaiting PG and E to come out to cut the battery led before they could rescue the people.

    Ralph Nadar wrote a book " Unsafe at any speed" This one book killed the Chevrolet Corvair. These Hybrids are that unsafe on the freeways.

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