General Motors has responded strongly to the Chevy Volt catching fire after crash testing and the subsequent investigation. GM is contacting Volt owners and giving them the option of a loaner vehicle if they are concerned about safety.
New crash tests create sparks
It was recently revealed that a Chevrolet Volt had caught fire weeks after being used in crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The fire occurred in June, according to AutoWeek, spurring an NHTSA investigation into fire risks posed by the Volt after a crash.
It was determined, according to AutoBlog, that the fire was caused when a coolant line in the battery was ruptured in the crash test in May, leading to the battery overheating and catching fire. The NHTSA conducted further testing on battery packs, intentionally damaging the coolant lines and seeing if the fire can be replicated.
Tests were conducted, according to AutoWeek, on Nov. 16, 17 and 18. The battery pack tested on Nov. 17 temporarily increased in temperature. The battery pack used in the Nov. 18 test was damaged and rotated 180 degrees and began to smolder and emit sparks.
Loaner cars available for concerned owners
The second Volt battery fire is still being investigated, but General Motors is contacting all current Chevy Volt owners to update them on the investigation. GM, according to USA Today, will also loan them any GM vehicle they want for the duration of the NHTSA investigation if they don’t feel safe driving the Volt in the meantime.
According to Car and Driver, GM is also enacting a response protocol for any Volts that are involved in a crash. The Chevy Volt is equipped with OnStar technology, which will notify the manufacturer in the event of an accident. General Motors says it will get a technician to any Volt within 24 hours of a crash to deactivate the battery and stifle any chance of a fire occurring.
Improper battery treatment blamed
The original fire, according to Car and Driver, happened because the battery wasn’t drained of power after the crash. GM asserts that if the NHTSA had drained the batteries of power after the accident, the fire wouldn’t have occurred. If no electricity is present in a damaged battery, the battery becomes inert; an electrical charge is required to spark an electrical fire.
General Motors is currently issuing guidelines on how to de-power a battery after a crash to all of its dealers and for third party service providers. There have been no incidents of fire among the owners of the 5,400 Chevy Volts currently on the road, though several fires have occurred in garages where Volts were being charged. However, those incidents were due to faulty house wiring, not anything to do with the car.
The circumstances which led to the fire in June, according to AutoBlog, are also incredibly unlikely to occur in real-world conditions.