The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has formally opened a safety defect investigation into the Chevy Volt after several crash tests revealed a fire risk involving the electric cars’ batteries.
Although, as of the date of this article, they have not yet received any confirmed “real-world” reports of this problem resulting in a fire, the NHTSA is concerned because a Chevrolet Volt caught fire in the parking lot three weeks after a side-impact crash test.
GM has maintained since the fire was first reported that the Volt is as safe as any other vehicle, and continues to tout the Volt’s 5-Star safety ratings from the NHTSA on the vehicle’s webpage.
“I want to make this very clear: the Volt is a safe car,” said Jim Federico, GM’s chief engineer. “We are working cooperatively with NHTSA as it completes its investigation. However, NHTSA has stated that based on available data, there’s no greater risk of fire with a Volt than a traditional gas-powered car.”
However, the NHTSA is concerned after damage to the Volt’s batteries resulted in fires, sparks and temperature spikes during three tests designed to replicate real-world crash scenarios. The tests replicate events such as a side-impact crash into a tree or telephone pole, followed by a rollover. The crash tests are designed to damage the battery compartment and rupture the coolant line, followed by a 180 degree rotten of the battery.
“NHTSA is therefore opening a safety defect investigation of Chevy Volts, which could experience a battery-related fire following a crash,” explained an spokesperson for the administration.
According to the NHTSA press release, they are working with the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to test of the safety of lithium-ion batteries in electric cars. The US Government, along with the auto and gas industries, have been accused of “killing the electric car” once before. If the NHTSA really does launch an in-depth investigation (with the help of the Department of Defense?) into the safety of ALL lithium-ion batteries in electric cars, conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day.
Should the Chevy Volt be recalled? What do the Chevy Volt fires mean for the perceived safety and sales of other electric vehicles? We would love your input in the comments area below.