Saturday, November 19, 2011
Chevy thinks that something sharp like a piece of steel pierced the battery and coolant leaked into the battery causing the fire. Their tests show if steel penetrates the battery the temperature will rise and catch on fire making the volt go up in flames.
GM has been tackling the problem and Jim Federico, GM's chief engineer for electric cars, says a process is in place to drawn down power from the battery after a crash. He wrote on ChevroletVoltage.com that the fire occurred because the battery didn't completely discharge after the crash test. GM developed their battery depowering process after the U.S. NHTSA test. As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the Volt it's top crash rating.
Another spokesman for GM Doug Wernert said the Volt has been tested extensively and never had a car catch on fire. They also conducted a joint crash test with the NHTSA to try and recreate what happened after the May 12th test and the Volt passed the safety test.
However, there's been criticism from car safety groups saying GM should've never released the car to the public without giving the battery depowering procedure out to firefighters, mechanics and salvage workers. First responders at a car accident need to know how to disconnect or discharge the lithium-ion battery. Chevy would send out their engineers to check out the Volt after an accident and if needed discharged the battery. But, they dropped the ball by not alerting the public and auto industry pros who need to know this information.
GM says there's a mechanism to disconnect the 16-kilowatt-hour battery from the car. They place the battery in the center of the Volt which they say is the safest placement.
By contrast, Nissan encases it's Leaf battery in steel.
GM engineer Federico said the Volt is safe. There's always a risk of fire after a serious crash whether the car is electric or gas powered.
More on Federico's statement at chevroletvoltage.com.