By Rob Colgan, NECA Executive Director, Market Development
We have all heard alarming news reports about fire risk of lithium-ion batteries in the Chevy Volt, and many probably have the impression that some production vehicles actually burned or exploded after a crash. In fact, the only post-crash fire on record occurred in NHTSA test facilities, and then only after a side impact crash followed by a rollover test and three weeks in storage subsequent to the crash. GM has taken steps to prevent the coolant leakage even under these extreme circumstances on the 14,735 vehicles produced and delivered in 2011, and has strengthened the protection and added coolant leakage sensors for future production vehicles.
NHTSA concluded their safety defect investigation and issued a final report on Friday, January 20, 2012. A few salient points in the report are:
· “the agency’s investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.”
· “NHTSA remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle.”
· “NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers.”
· “Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. Generally all vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash.”