Chevy To Fix Every Volt Vehicle To Prevent Battery Fires

Late last year it was revealed that the Dept. of Transportation was looking into possible problems with the batteries in electric vehicles after a Chevy Volt caught fire following a crash test. Now it looks like General Motors will spend the next few months upgrading the battery containment and coolant systems in every Volt currently on the road.

Thankfully for GM, that’s only around 12,400 vehicles.

According to the Detroit News, the fix will strengthen an existing portion of the Volt’s vehicle safety structure so as to better protect the battery in the event of a severe side collision. Additionally, a sensor will be placed in the reservoir of the battery coolant system to monitor coolant levels, along with a tamper-resistant bracket to the top of the battery coolant reservoir to prevent potential coolant overfill.

Since it was a NHTSA crash test that sparked the first Volt fire, the agency recently ran a crashed test on a new-and-improved Volt and found no fire or intrusion into the battery pack.

“The preliminary results of the crash test indicate the remedy proposed by General Motors Thursday should address the issue of battery intrusion,” NHTSA said in a statement, with the cavet, “The agency has not concluded that investigation and is continuing to gather and assess information on the post-crash fire risk in these vehicles.”

No formal recall has been announced yet, though that may come in the near future. Dealers, who are currently still allowed to sell Volts as-is, won’t be getting the parts to upgrade existing vehicles until February. Meanwhile, the Volts that will come off the GM assembly line in Detroit will include the new safety add-ons.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Chevy announced that concerned Volt owners could receive free loaner cars.

GM announces structural fixes for Chevrolet Volt [Detroit News]

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  1. Marlin says:

    AGAIN these fires happened days if not weeks after the wrecks.

    in other words make sure to exit your wrecked car within a week or so to play it safe. /s

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Does anyone but me think that this vehicle is already inching its way into the graveyard of “Christmas Past”.

  2. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Another victory for green initiatives – and on top of the fact they’ve sold a whopping 12,400 of them! The success of this program should be a model for all other green programs.

    Someone do a case study quick, before anything else happens.

    • The Slime Oozing Out From Your TV Set says:

      GM has a lot of catching up to do, having sat on electric vehicle tech for years, while their competitors actually worked on it.

  3. iConsumer says:

    The vehicle catches fire weeks after it’s wrecked… where’s the news? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t combustion engines catch fire *when the wreck occurs* every day? quick – someone issue a recall for every other vehicle!

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Yeah, they explode on contact. You see them burning all the time after even the most minor of wrecks. I saw 4 cars explode on my way to work this morning.

      Also, when any car hits a stationary car from behind, it flips.

      • George4478 says:

        This saved me many years ago when the group of Nazis chasing me ran their halftrack into a Ford Pinto.

    • MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

      I think the deal is, you have a wreck in your Volt; it’s either still drivable or you get it fixed (or so you think), and then you take it home and park it in your garage. It waits until you’re asleep several weeks later and spontaneously combusts, burning down your house.

      Then the insurance company has to replace your house and your Volt – a process known in the industry as ‘reVolting’.

      • Marlin says:

        the accidents that they test that cause these fires are not bumper rubs. Think 30mph concrete slab into the side of it. The car will not move, let alone someone wanting to try it.

        • Rachacha says:

          Then substitute “Your home/house” with the repair shop and repair shop employees.

          • GearheadGeek says:

            Who has a severely-wrecked car towed to their house?

            Also, there’s a recommendation to discharge the battery in the event of a serious collision, just like there’s a recommendation to disconnect the regular 12V battery in a conventional car after a wreck. (Some BMWs have an automatic battery disconnect when they detect a collision, in fact.) If that recommendation had been followed there never would have been fires in the first place. It’s good that GM is hardening the battery packs, but they’re fixing what’s mostly a non-issue for operational safety.

      • Bakkster says:

        I believe it was mentioned that these impacts that would ignite the batteries also tend to crack the frame of the car or cause other damage necessitating being taken to the shop.

        That said, there’s a reason why it’s being fixed, but the rarity of the circumstances in general makes this a ‘no big deal’ in the grand scheme of auto recalls.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        I don’t know if that was a set-up for the “re-volting” non-joke, but that’s not at all the case. These are serious, total-the-car side impacts that collapse the passenger compartment all the way to the center tunnel where a big part of the Volt’s battery is installed. The cars probably can’t even be safely towed with 2 wheels down, and certainly can’t be driven home.

  4. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    Oh for crying out loud. To damage the batteries you have to really smash the car. If you smash the car like that it wont be drivable. If you don’t take it to a garage, but leave a smashed, leaky car in your garage bad things will happen. If you take it to a garage, they’ll fix it which will include inspecting the batteries.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      If you take it to a garage, they’ll fix it which will include inspecting the batteries.

      Not if they total it. Then it will be sitting in an impound lot for a while…where it can start a fire…just like it did when the NHTSA tested it.

      • stevenpdx says:

        That’s why there is a procedure (which the IIAS and NHTSA didn’t do) to drain the batteries after an accident.

        The battery wasn’t ruptured in the tests. The battery’s coolant system was damaged, and eventually the battery overheated and sparked. It didn’t catch on fire.

        The battery wouldn’t have overheated if it had been properly drained after the test.

        • TheMansfieldMauler says:

          Yeah, I’m sure Big Ed’s Wrekin’ Yard and Grithouse in Cornsqueeze, Alabama is right on top of all the battery draining equipment and procedures necessary to store a Volt so that when the Highway Patrol calls them to come haul a rolled one off the Interstate they can do so efficiently and safely.

          • dadelus says:

            If Big Ed is too dumb to figure they ought to look up some information made readily available by the manufacterer on how to properly handle a new-fangled Vee-hickle then who’s fault is it when the fire occurs?

            • TheMansfieldMauler says:

              Apparently, it’s Chevrolet’s. Otherwise they wouldn’t be fixin’ it.

              • GearheadGeek says:

                Chevrolet is fixing it because a bunch of alarmists got their petticoats all bunched up about it and the first thing Americans do when something they don’t understand frightens them is call a lawyer.

  5. jono_0101 says:

    im sure all 17 chevy volt owners will be very happy to hear this news

  6. Akuma Matata says:

    I’m just so glad the US taxpayer has subsidized the production of these vehicles of up to $250k each… http://hotair.com/archives/2011/12/21/govt-subsidies-for-chevy-volt-up-to-250000-per-car/

    awesome.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      C’mon, can’t you see through the writer’s intentional stupidity here? The subsidy doesn’t amount to a per-vehicle subsidy unless GM buries every bit of technology they’ve developed using the money. GM is likely to continue to develop and improve the technology, and as battery technology improves there will be more and more vehicles using Voltec and similar technologies because it’ll make more economic sense at that point.

      Or is it that you just wanted to repeat the writer’s knee-jerk, government-waste trope without thinking about whether there’s much truth to it?

    • Apeweek says:

      Look at this – it says the Ford Mondeo cost $6 billion dollars to develop:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Mondeo#Mk1_.281993-1996.29

      So why not take that $6 billion investment and divide it by the 38,000 orders for the Mondeo from it’s first year on the market?

      That comes to about $158,000 per car.

      Or maybe this isn’t really a valid way to calculate the allocation of development money?

      More about the serious math abuse in this story:

      http://www.torquenews.com/1075/250k-chevy-volt-subsidy-claim-bogus-says-thestreetcom

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    And now for the latest – I heard this today on the radio – GM might move production of the Volt to China:

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2011/09/gm-cuts-china-electric-car-deal—-a-china-shakedown/1

  8. ninabi says:

    And this is why we went with the Nissan Leaf instead of the Volt.

  9. human_shield says:

    Owners will be surprised when after dropping off their Volt for repair, they get a letter telling them they’ve all been crushed.

  10. physics2010 says:

    New test shows that Volt explodes when hit by 155mm arty. Chevy to recall and up armor the Volt.

  11. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    Um, what’s that word they use to describe a request to return a product to the manufacturer for necessary safety-related repairs or adjustments?

    Someone help me out here.

    /closes governmentspeak dictionary

  12. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    This bulletin just in from our insect overlords:

    In: Comprehesnsive fix

    Out: Recall

  13. baristabrawl says:

    We bought a LEAF. So, I’m okay with that.