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With no official recall on the books, General Motors is announcing enhanced safety features on its Chevrolet Volt extended range electric car to protect against possible fire concerns.
The Volt made headlines of the wrong kind recently when it was revealed that last summer a test vehicle caught fire at a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) facility after being crash tested. As explained by Mary Barra, senior vice president, Global Product Development at General Motors, during a conference call today, the issue arose when a piece of the car punctured the battery pack. Then during a “slow roll” procedure coolant (over a liter of it) leaked out of the battery. Days later, when the car was recharging, an electrical short caused a fire.
GM dispatched a “senior engineering investigation team” and developed a solution to the potential fire risk, choosing to strengthen the car’s safety structure, thus “eliminating the chance of a post crash fire,” says Barra, who confirmed that in internal testing the solution resulted in no intrusion into the battery pack and, therefore, no coolant leak.
Barra confirmed that no changes have been made to the battery cell or pack and commented that GM is “confident in robustness and safety of the battery,” which is supplied by LG Chem. A sensor has, however, been added to the inside of the battery pack to monitor coolant levels, as well as a “tamper-resistant bracket” designed to help prevent potential coolant overfill.
General Motors is saying the “fix” will be applied to all existing Volts and that when production of the Volt restarts this month after a Christmas brake, new cars will be fitted with the enhanced safety structure. According to GM North America president Mark Reuss, dealers will be able to complete the fix easily within a day adding a small part that weighs around two or three pounds.
Reuss was eager to point out that GM’s response to this safety concern is voluntary and that, “there have been no real world incidents like NHTSA experienced during its severe crash tests.”
“Safety is the ultimate piece of standard equipment we can provide,” said Reuss. “I trust the Volt with the most important thing in the world to me, my family.”
In the case of a fire in the garage of a North Carolina home where a Chevrolet Volt was being charged at the time, the Volt has been proven – not guilty.
When news first came out regarding this incident, many believed the culprit behind this fire could be the Volt, but Iredell County chief deputy fire marshal Garland Cloer says; “the source of ignition seems to be from outside the area of the vehicles.”
This fire attracted investigators from many companies to come forward to access the cause of the blaze. These included representatives from Nissan, Chevrolet, Siemens, Duke Energy and the homeowners insurance company.
The reason there were so many investigators is because at the time of the fire, the garage housed a Nissan Armada, the Chevrolet Volt, a Siemens 240-volt recharging station, and many miscellaneous items such as a electric cars for kids, not to mention gasoline and other hazardous materials.
The fire marshal said that fire usually follows a “V” path as it spreads, and according to their findings, the fire originated from another source, not the cars. Cloer said that when a fire originates from the car, things like its seats, carpets and rubber hoses are not left intact, but they were in this case, another indication the Volt was not guilty.
Total damage to the house is appraised at $800,000.
[Source: Green Car Reports]