Report: Lithium-ion battery packs being investigated after Chevy Volt catches fire

Electric powertrains are by no means new to the automobile industry because Toyota had invented the gasoline electric hybrid back in 1997. And although their functionality has been undoubtedly successful, a new investigation has popped up involving electric powertrains, more specifically with their battery packs.

This new investigation pops up after a Chevrolet Volt battery caught fire three weeks after a side-impact test at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s testing center in Wisconsin. The fire engulfed the car and others surrounding it.

You may be thinking, well, what could’ve caused that and how come it hasn’t happened to other cars such as the Toyota Prius? Well, for starters, the Toyota’s hybrid powertrains have been utilizing a nickel-metal battery. The Chevrolet Volt on the other hand uses a lithium ion battery. That said, the Volt’s incident has forced a team of investigators from the NHTSA to conduct a private and thorough investigation of lithium battery packs in the application of automobiles, which means the Nissan LEAF will too be scrutinized.

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Click here for more news on the Chevrolet Volt.

“As manufacturers continue to develop vehicles of any kind — electric, gasoline, or diesel — it is critical that they take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of drivers and first responders both during and after a crash,” said the NHTSA in a statement.

However, interestingly enough, the Volt incident wasn’t isolated to the safety crash testing at the NHTSA center as there was another report of a Volt catching fire in a residential garage in Mooresville, NC while charging. A team of NHTSA investigators were sent to look into the cause. However, although these incidents occurred, the NHTSA doesn’t think there’s a greater risk with lithium-ion powered electric vehicles because relatively speaking, there’s an inherent danger with any automobile because of the volatility of their propellants.

“Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe the Volt or other electric vehicles are at a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. In fact, all vehicles — both electric and gasoline-powered — have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash.”

GM’s Statement to NHTSA Investigation:

The following statement can be attributed Jim Federico, General Motors chief engineer for electric vehicles:

“First and foremost, I want to make this very clear: the Volt is a safe car.  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 gasoline-powered car.

“Safety protocols for electric vehicles are clearly an industry concern. At GM, we have safety protocols to depower the battery of an electric vehicle after a significant crash.

“We are working with other vehicle manufacturers, first responders, tow truck operators, and salvage associations with the goal of implementing industry-wide protocols.” 

– By: Chris Chin

Source: Automotive News


Chris Chin

Chris Chin is the Editor-In-Chief of egmCarTech and is a regular contributor to Automobile Magazine.

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