The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is flatly denying any wrongdoing around the time it took to release data suggesting the Chevrolet Volt might catch fire.
Earlier this week reports surfaced that Volts suffering severe crashes might be at risk of catching fire. GM hasn’t released an official statement explaining the phenomenon, but information leaked from unnamed sources suggesting it might be the liquid cooling system for the car’s lithium ion battery. The fires weren’t even the most disturbing part of the story. It seems the NHTSA actually knew of the defect last May.
By Wednesday U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California along with two other U.S. house members aimed accusations at the NHTSA, saying in a letter that they “deliberately suppressed public knowledge of the safety risk posed by the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery system.”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded today saying the accusations were “absolutely not true.”
“We have opened an investigation into battery-related fires that may occur some time after a severe crash,” LaHood said. “Chevy Volt owners can be confident that their cars are safe to drive.”
For now, Chevrolet is doing damage control with the car they otherwise used as a PR poster child. So far they have offered to buy back Volts from any owners who feel unsafe and offered loaner cars to those who simply want the defect fixed.
It won’t be clear what that fix will include until later in the week when GM expects its engineers to arrive at a solution, but speculation thus far suggests it may include a strengthened housing around the battery as well as laminating the battery itself and measures to protect against coolant leaking after a crash.
Other cars like the Nissan Leaf use air in place of liquid cooling systems, meaning they aren’t subject to the same potential hazard.
“As soon as we have additional information on our testing and on our investigation, we’ll disclose it,” LaHood said.
[Source: Automotive News]