Nov 14

Crash tested Volt ignites federal investigation

 

A Volt that was side-impact tested for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and caught fire three weeks later has prompted the same agency to begin investigating lithium-ion batteries from all makers.

If news of the second Volt known to have been involved in a fire in early June after the 20-mph impact did make the press five months ago, it was not noticed here.

NHTSA’s full revelation was reported last week however, and details included that the fire might have been prevented if GM’s post-crash protocols had been followed. In a statement, NHTSA did not raise undue alarm.


NHTSA’s side impact test of Volt into a pole.

“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,” the agency said. “In fact, all vehicles – both electric and gasoline-powered – have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash.”

This we said last week when a third Volt was involved in a house fire in North Carolina. Thus far many more internal combustion powered vehicles have burned – 200,000 in the U.S. last year alone. To date no one has been killed by an EV fire which cannot be said of traditional vehicles.

Nonetheless, a higher degree of perceived newsworthiness has emanated from the NHTSA-crashed Volt which spontaneously caught fire while stored in a parking lot, and ignited nearby cars as well.

The news sent GM’s stock as much as 3 percent lower on Friday, and it closed 1 percent down while the market as a whole climbed two percent.

It is the newness of EVs that has people concerned, because unknown is what worse might happen. The mystery has been removed from internal combustion vehicles, but not so with EVs.

NHTSA said it is now working with all automakers on post-crash procedures to better ensure safety for electrified vehicle occupants and emergency personnel who arrive at crash scenes.

GM is cooperating and taking its own steps in kind, said Jim Federico, GM’s chief engineer for electric vehicles on Friday.

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


Chevrolet’s T-shaped battery pack.

While GM is on board with NHTSA’s latest plans, GM spokesman Greg Martin said Friday that the third-party company that conducted the crash tests for NHTSA did not follow a protocol GM’s engineers had already worked out for just such an eventuality.

Specifically, GM has provision to send a team to drain the battery in crashed Volts, said GM Spokesman Rob Peterson. The company did not tell NHTSA about the procedure, however. He said next year GM hopes to have made a battery draining tool more commonly available.

NHTSA is now recommending that damaged EVs be kept in an open area, not an enclosed building or garage, and they should not be left proximal to other vehicles.

It recommends also that tow-truck drivers and salvage-yard workers contact damaged electrified vehicles’ manufacturers rather than attempting to discharge batteries themselves.

Another GM spokesman, Jay Cooney, said subsequent attempts to subject the Volt to crashes and induce another fire have not been able to, so thus far, this crash fire is a one-off event.

The federal standard is actually less severe than the SUV-force side impact testing conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, and that organization has had no Volt fires.

But this is now the third fire a Volt has been involved in – and the first where the Volt definitely did cause an electrically induced fire.

Following the Connecticut fire in which a Volt was on location, authorities and GM said the car was not at fault. In the case of the North Carolina fire, it appears likely the Volt will be cleared.

This latest post-crash fire was presumably due to a ruptured battery, but the exact cause is still under investigation.


Volt/Ampera batteries on their way to assembly.

“Apparently, there was some cell activity, latent activity that resulted in the fire,” said a NHTSA official. “That cell activity we don’t know.”

Thus far, no Nissan Leafs have been known to have been involved in a fire. Nor have other brands, so regardless of circumstances, GM has had to face these experiences alone.

As the maker of the most mass market battery electric automobiles on the road, Nissan issued a statement declaring its EV to be safe.

“All of our systems have been thoroughly tested to ensure real-world performance,” Nissan said in a statement. “To date, the more than 8,000 Nissan Leafs driving on the U.S. roads have performed without reported incident.”

GM says its vehicle is safe as well. The Volt’s 400-pound battery is protected deep within the vehicle.

If further precautions – such as government-mandated discharging –or other engineering is deemed necessary for electrified vehicles, it is being said that this incident leading to the NHTSA investigation may bring that out.

New York Times

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 14th, 2011 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 61


  1. 1
    Roy_H

    +22

     

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (6:13 am)

    How can a professional organization not follow an extremely obvious protocol to drain the battery after a collision? If a normal car is in an accident, do they leave the ignition key on? Do they leave the battery installed and hooked up? Do they leave the gas tank full of gas? How could they possibly believe that an enormous damaged battery with a full charge should just be ignored?


  2. 2
    nasaman

    +17

     

    nasaman
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (6:15 am)

    Very timely topic, Jeff! I’m reminded of the disastrous Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967 that killed 3 astronauts —also an electrical fire— one that some said should put an end to the manned space program. As we all know, a simple but very important lesson was learned from that fire —one that prevented any future similar disasters. There may also be something important learned from both GM’s and NHTSA’s investigations (hidden blessings?) —in any event, we can be certain that the world-wide auto industry’s plans for electrifying automobiles will NOT come to an end!

    /In fact, the development pace of EVs, EREVs, etc might actually INCREASE (as did the manned space program following the Apollo 1 fire)


  3. 3
    jim1961

    +38

     

    jim1961
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (6:37 am)

    If I’m ever involved in a serious collision in a Volt I will not stay in the damaged car for three weeks.


  4. 4
    statik

     

    statik
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (7:11 am)

    Things to do today:

    1.) Triple house insurance
    2.) Park my Volt in garage tonight
    3.) Profit

    …j/k


  5. 5
    John

    +26

     

    John
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (7:33 am)

    My new volt is being shipped to me and I’m not at all worried about parking it in my garage.


  6. 6
    leeG

    +25

     

    leeG
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (7:56 am)

    If a gas tank ignites because of a crash, it’s immediate with the passengers in the car.

    If a lithium-ion battery ignites because of a crash, it’s three weeks later, with the wrecked car sitting in the junk yard.

    Which do I prefer? Hummmm…..


  7. 7
    Ted in Fort Myers

    +11

     

    Ted in Fort Myers
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (8:59 am)

    Do ya think the petroleum industry has anything to do with the cain that has been raised over this? Considering the
    affects of their purchasing of the Nickel Metal Hydride battery patent.

    Take Care, TED


  8. 8
    kdawg

    +5

     

    kdawg
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (9:00 am)

    “This latest post-crash fire was presumably due to a ruptured battery, but the exact cause is still under investigation. ”
    ———————-

    From what I read, the coolant crystalized when it got very cold at night and became a conductor. This allowed the battery to discharge. Let me look for the link I read that at.

    EDIT: Found it. Quote from RP.
    “Preliminary evidence indicates that over time the normally inert coolant came into contact with some of the LIon battery cells. In liquid form that would not be a problem, but it eventually “crystallized” as the Wisconsin weather turned cold at night, according to Peterson. That eventually led to the battery shorting out and catching fire, apparently, though a formal cause has not been announced by safety regulators.”


  9. 9
    kdawg

    +4

     

    kdawg
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (9:02 am)

    statik: Things to do today:
    1.) Triple house insurance
    2.) Park my Volt in garage tonight
    3.) Profit
    …j/k

    That’s pretty good you remembered the 3rd thing.


  10. 10
    Nelson

    +1

     

    Nelson
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (9:19 am)

    All I can say about fire prevention is you should check the outlet used to charge the Volt every 6 months. Unplug the charger from the outlet and inspect the plug as well.

    NPNS!
    Volt#671


  11. 11
    Tim Hart

    +12

     

    Tim Hart
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (9:26 am)

    The bottom line is that that the Volt has the highest safety rating in the event of a crash and is way safer than any car I’ve ever owned. That’s good enough for me.


  12. 12
    Bonaire

    +4

     

    Bonaire
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (9:57 am)

    >> But this is now the third fire a Volt has been involved in – and the first where the Volt definitely did cause an electrically induced fire.

    Can’t say that for 100% surity until the investigation is done. As always, cannot rule out arson unless they find the root-cause within the system. It may have been outside the battery too. A Tesla Roadster caught fire in 2010 due to its 12V wiring and they had a recall. That was wiring outside the primary battery. In a crash test or crash,wiring outside could be pinched or warn in such a way that eventual shorting may occur and if fed by a large source of power, this kind of thing “might” happen. We don’t yet know if it was a LG Chem cell or external wiring issue for the crash test fire. We don’t even know if this fire was caused by the HV system or the 12V system. Maybe the Bose subwoofer ignited? There are a lot of Bose haters out there among the audiophiles of the world.

    Above, it is mentioned to be something with the coolant. This was in May/June so night-time temps there shouldn’t have been a problem. Now, if coolant could dry out and conduct in crystal form, that would sound a little better. I’d like to see some tests with squeezed or crushed LG Chem cells. It may be that the casings of the packs hold the cells tight and any abrupt forces might bend them somewhat. To fit all the cells in a tight space, I don’t think they have a lot of wiggle room between them. All Li cells expand and contract during charge and discharge. A crash test Volt probably was done with a fully-charged battery. That means the cells would have been as large as they could grow to.


  13. 13
    kdawg

     

    kdawg
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (10:13 am)

    Bonaire: This was in May/June so night-time temps there shouldn’t have been a problem.

    What was in May/June?


  14. 14
    lousloot

     

    lousloot
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (10:32 am)

    Interesting, but, common sense. I guess it isn’t a surprise they did not drain the battery — they should have.
    This is a training issue. Standard operating procedure was not followed.

    I can see the testers saying; “ah, we didn’t have a tool to drain the battery and so we couldn’t.”

    Something to note? Absolutely! Volt owners, please note and remind the Tow truck operator.
    Something to worry about? naaa..

    Common sense — a charged battery has a charge and if not discharged may be a problem if not drained after a crash. Its S.O.P junkers get the ground wire removed from the battery now… to -gasp- prevent electrical fires. If the battery is busted, you may have to do more… see link.

    From 1997 crash test:

    “A careful post-collision “tear-down” revealed that a sheet-metal screw in the vehicle’s power distribution box had penetrated the side of the battery during the collision, creating a circuit for the electricity to flow.”

    http://www.usroads.com/journals/aruj/9707/ru970702.htm

    wow who knew that a busted battery may cause an electrical fire? oh Everyone knew that.

    kdawg: “Preliminary evidence indicates that over time the normally inert coolant came into contact with some of the LIon battery cells. In liquid form that would not be a problem, but it eventually “crystallized” as the Wisconsin weather turned cold at night, according to Peterson. That eventually led to the battery shorting out and catching fire, apparently, though a formal cause has not been announced by safety regulators.”


  15. 15
    Tall Pete

    +2

     

    Tall Pete
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (10:32 am)

    statik: Things to do today:

    1.) Triple house insurance
    2.) Park my Volt in garage tonight
    3.) Profit

    …j/k

    Gave you +1 for kidding but you were minus one when I did. Tough crowd today…


  16. 16
    Steve

     

    Steve
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (10:37 am)

    When comparing to the Leaf and such one might want to also consider that it’s just not possible to put as many miles on a battery car over a given period as something like the Volt. Incidents per mile might be a better indicator. Then again battery-only cars will spend more total time on charging stations and often at higher charge rates.


  17. 17
    Mark Z

    +1

     

    Mark Z
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (10:51 am)

    In “Revenge of the Electric Car” they show the results of a commercial building fire where EV conversions took place. They clearly mention in the film that it was due to arson.

    Perhaps one thing to do when a crashed/crushed EV needs protected storage is to lock it in a secure outdoor area that is video monitored and patrolled.

    When my house was alarmed, a fire sensor was installed near the water heater. That sensor can also inform of any ICE or EV problem in the garage.

    Remember that attached garages have extra thick drywall for fire protection. Those codes were put into practice many years ago due to ICE vehicles.


  18. 18
    kdawg

    +2

     

    kdawg
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (10:51 am)

    Steve: When comparing to the Leaf and such one might want to also consider that it’s just not possible to put as many miles on a battery car over a given period as something like the Volt. Incidents per mile might be a better indicator. Then again battery-only cars will spend more total time on charging stations and often at higher charge rates.

    Not sure I follow your logic. The Leaf has a bigger battery and most accidents happen within 5 miles of the home. I think the Leaf may have been OK in this case since it’s air cooled, but who knows what other problems are possible.

    Really I think these stories are more about selling newspapers than “alerting the public”. I would hope any rational person is not scared of an EV. Remember when Dave Letterman pretended to get shocked… sheesh. Look at how many cell phones & laptops have caught fire or exploded. I don’t see any decline in their use.


  19. 19
    Kevin

    +4

     

    Kevin
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:00 am)

    I picked up my Volt October 19th (1st one sold in Oklahoma). The report said 200,000 fires from gasoline cars last year???? I think I will leave my 2000 Trans Am outside now!!! lol
    Oklahoma had a 5.7 earthquake and tornadoes on the same day last week. I’m really scared of my volt……….. NOT !!!!!!!!


  20. 20
    Loboc

    +6

     

    Loboc
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:07 am)

    Holy crap. A wrecked car caught fire. How is this ‘news’?

    Good thing it wasn’t a Crown Vic or a Pinto.


  21. 21
    Kent

    +1

     

    Kent
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:13 am)

    I’m really grateful for all the info I get from this website. My wife has a friend on Facebook who is very “anti-EV” and any time there news (propaganda?) like this, he forwards it to my wife. I can then tell my wife the whole story and have all the facts available to ease her concerns.

    Off topic: My wife charges our Volt at her work using a standard 120V outlet. Sometimes a Leaf will park next to her and plug in to the 2nd 120V plug of the same outlet. When this happens, two of the three green lights on the charging unit changes to orange/red. I can see on the OnStar app on my iPhone that the Volt is still plugged in, but it’s not getting charged. Does anyone know why this is? We don’t know who the owner of the Leaf is, so we don’t know if s/he’s getting a full charge or not at the same time.

    Any advice/suggestions???


  22. 22
    Bonaire

     

    Bonaire
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:25 am)

    kdawg: What was in May/June?

    News items say: The Volt caught fire while parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center in Wisconsin, three weeks after a side-impact crash test May 12, said an agency official. The official and the three other people familiar with the inquiry declined to be identified because the investigation isn’t public.


  23. 23
    Dave K.

    +6

     

    Dave K.
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:31 am)

    The 2011 and 2012 model year Volts are safe. Rated highest in crash safety. A governed top speed of 100mph keeping the cost of insurance down. Owner survey results show the Volt as GM’s top model for reliability.

    I now have 10 months experience in Volt ownership. Each demo drive for a coworker or a neighbor leaves them exited about the future of transportation. Lexus and BMW owners are gravitating to this smooth efficient technology.

    It will take another 24 months of sales and distribution before we see the normal trends associated with the automotive industry. A NEW model of safe efficient EV will be available to buy. Followed by the “older” models becoming easier to find and more affordable to buy with negotiated pricing.

    Volt, LEAF, Tesla, Fisker, Ford, Mitsubishi and others are now in the game. I expect to see Honda, Toyota and Kia to get on board in a big way soon. The 120 year rein of spark to liquid fuel family moving vehicles is waning. Time has come to get into a clean, quiet, safe, and soon to be affordable EV.

    VoltJuly2011CarShow.jpg

    The Annual Rods & Roses Car Show ~ July 2011 Carpinteria, Ca.
    Volt #555 drew a good crowd of over 100 inquiries in the 6 hour showing.
    98% positive with 3 viewers stating, “44 mpg with gasoline is better”.
    One viewer was a former GM employee. Well dressed and appeared to be of military background. He looked the Volt over with happy eyes and exclaimed, “Only GM could have built this”.


  24. 24
    Jeff Cobb

    +3

     

    Jeff Cobb
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:43 am)

    Bonaire: >> But this is now the third fire a Volt has been involved in – and the first where the Volt definitely did cause an electrically induced fire.

    Can’t say that for 100% surity until the investigation is done. As always, cannot rule out arson unless they find the root-cause within the system. It may have been outside the battery too.

    I thought of this before I wrote “definitely.” One, we have the quotes from NHTSA as the preliminary understanding is the fire originated with the Volt. Two, this whole investigation into EV safety procedures is based on this premise that the electric car ignited post impact.

    Three, I just called Rob Peterson and he said I have it correct. It is safe to say the Volt started the fire. How exactly is still under investigation, but arson is ruled out.


  25. 25
    pjkPA

    +1

     

    pjkPA
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:53 am)

    Roy_H:
    How can a professional organization not follow an extremely obvious protocol to drain the battery after a collision? If a normal car is in an accident, do they leave the ignition key on? Do they leave the battery installed and hooked up? Do they leave the gas tank full of gas? How could they possibly believe that an enormous damaged battery with a full charge should just be ignored?

    I agree… and you have to remember.. this is a government agency.

    I think the headline for today could have been less “yellow”… I think this should have been the headline:

    “Thus far many more internal combustion powered vehicles have burned – 200,000 in the U.S. last year alone. To date no one has been killed by an EV fire which cannot be said of traditional vehicles. “


  26. 26
    Raymondjram

    +2

     

    Raymondjram
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:54 am)

    I would like to know if the newspapers a hundred years ago has similar articles about steam and gas engine fires in homes and garages when the first “horseless” vehicles came to market. The articles could probably point out the many dangers to human and animal lives when these fires happened.

    Poor horses!

    Raymond


  27. 27
    MichaelH

    +2

     

    MichaelH
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (12:01 pm)

    Raymondjram:
    I would like to know if the newspapers a hundred years ago has similar articles about steam and gas engine fires in homes and garages when the first “horseless” vehicles came to market. The articles could probably point out the many dangers to human and animal lives when these fires happened. Poor horses!
    Raymond

    Don’t know about these, but they sure had a lot to say about it when people first started putting electricity in their homes. Cartoons depicting electricity jumping out of those outlets. Edison had a tough sell.


  28. 28
    kdawg

     

    kdawg
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (12:06 pm)

    Bonaire: News items say: The Volt caught fire while parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center in Wisconsin, three weeks after a side-impact crash test May 12, said an agency official. The official and the three other people familiar with the inquiry declined to be identified because the investigation isn’t public.

    OK, I missed that date. Anyway, northern parts of Wisconsin easily have night-time temps below freezing into the month of June. I don’t know where the NHTSA is located or what the specific temp was that night.


  29. 29
    stuart22

     

    stuart22
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (12:14 pm)

    Apparently the Feds didn’t disconnect the battery after they demolished the car….

    http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2011/11/did-feds-inadvertently-cause-chevy-volt-fire/


  30. 30
    Noel Park

    +2

     

    Noel Park
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (12:18 pm)

    I’m not worried. Next case.


  31. 31
    leeG

    +1

     

    leeG
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (12:27 pm)

    While we are talking about lithium-ion fire hazards, be sure to take you first generation iPod nano out of the console and make sure it isn’t on the Apple recall list. Don’t want an iPod causing another Volt fire dust-up.

    From Apple’s support web-site:
    “Apple has determined that, in very rare cases, the battery in the iPod nano (1st generation) may overheat and pose a safety risk. Affected iPod nanos were sold between September 2005 and December 2006.

    This issue has been traced to a single battery supplier that produced batteries with a manufacturing defect. While the possibility of an incident is rare, the likelihood increases as the battery ages.

    Apple recommends that you stop using your iPod nano (1st gen) and follow the process noted below to order a replacement unit, free of charge.

    Note: This battery issue is specific to the iPod nano (1st gen) and does not affect any other iPod.”

    See this link: http://www.apple.com/support/ipodnano_replacement/


  32. 32
    Loboc

     

    Loboc
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (12:59 pm)

    leeG: lithium-ion fire hazards

    The only similarities between a Volt battery and a consumer electronics battery is that they both contain some lithium. Other than that, they are totally different products. A Hemi V-8 and a lawnmower have more in common with each other.


  33. 33
    DonC

    +4

     

    DonC
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (1:08 pm)

    This is just moving up the learning curve. The protocol is to discharge the battery after the crash. They didn’t do that. The protocol is also to drain the fuel tank after the crash. They did do that. What’s the difference? The difference is that they’ve been handling gas for so long that everyone understands what you do. Battery electric cars are new so the protocols aren’t well understood.

    No doubt they now know what to do, and fortunately the lesson was learned without anyone being hurt or killed.


  34. 34
    DonC

    +3

     

    DonC
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (1:11 pm)

    statik: 2.) Park my Volt in garage tonight

    You mean you normally don’t park your Volt in your garage? LOL


  35. 35
    DonC

    +1

     

    DonC
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (1:14 pm)

    pjkPA: I agree… and you have to remember.. this is a government agency.

    Please. At this point in time do you think the average tow truck driver or junk yard would know to disconnect and drain the battery? I’m thinking the probability is close to zero. Until this incident I would have had no idea and I’m thinking I’m more up on this stuff than they would be.

    In retrospect it’s obvious. But lots of things are obvious when looking in the rear view mirror.


  36. 36
    T 1

    +2

     

    T 1
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (1:32 pm)

    My first reactions:

    1) User error.
    2) Chance to buy a Volt at a discount.


  37. 37
    unni

     

    unni
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (2:06 pm)

    I think this issue is only tip of the iceburg.

    This news can end here by giving a “drain the battery” protocol or

    1) Provide and educate “drain the battery” battery protocol to public
    2) Try to automate the logic inside the car ( like airbags up after a crash )
    3) Go to differnt car forums, look on the electrical problems listed by owners (even normal GM vehicles ) , take them to a central internal forum and try to solve them ( allocate some resource for this ) and improve all the electrical architecture as a whole.
    4) Put good quality control on suppliers.

    This wont scare a early bird but its for sure scare public or mass adaption. So quality improvement is very good step.

    Again put some real reliable mass hybrids out ( on impala/traverse etc ) and push enough hybrid trucks to fleets. Let people get confidence on them ( say they run 200,000 miles without a single issue etc ).


  38. 38
    leeG

    +1

     

    leeG
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (2:24 pm)

    Loboc: The only similarities between a Volt battery and a consumer electronics battery is that they both contain some lithium. Other than that, they are totally different products. A Hemi V-8 and a lawnmower have more in common with each other.

    My comment was a safety warning about the first generation iPod nano.

    I just pulled one of those puppies out of our Volt this morning. I figure there may be a few more hiding in Volt consoles. If you have one, check it out with Apple to make sure it isn’t on the recall list.


  39. 39
    unni

     

    unni
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (2:38 pm)

    kdawg: In liquid form that would not be a problem, but it eventually “crystallized” as the Wisconsin weather turned cold at night, according to Peterson. That eventually led to the battery shorting out and catching fire, apparently, though a formal cause has not been announced by safety regulators.

    Wondering they don’t have a test case for ICE and generator not working and battery is in cold ( if coolant freeze can cause short circuit )


  40. 40
    srschrier

    +2

     

    srschrier
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    Nov 14th, 2011 (2:54 pm)

    Hopefully GM’s ongoing R&D with solid-state batteries (SAKTi-3 of Ann Arbor) and fuel cells will eventually result in development of electrically powered transportation that’s more economical to manufacture and viewed by the public as having greater safety.


  41. 41
    Comprehension problem you guys?

    +2

     

    Comprehension problem you guys?
     Says

     

    Nov 14th, 2011 (3:30 pm)

    Wow, did you guys read the article carefully? Why the heck is everyone putting the blame on NHTSA, when in fact,

    (1) It’s the Volt that started the fire; and MOST IMPORTANTLY
    (2) GM never recommended or documented the battery drainage procedure until after the fire; in fact, after it has conducted its own test AFTER the fire (which was unreproducible). Do a web search, and you’ll see that the protocol was developed much later after the fire, as reported by DetroitBureau.

    “Specifically, GM has provision to send a team to drain the battery in crashed Volts, said GM Spokesman Rob Peterson. The company did not tell NHTSA about the procedure, however. He said next year GM hopes to have made a battery draining tool more commonly available.”

    This was in the article, and everyone choose either to “ignore” it or miss it.

    Blame GM for not having such procedure in place initially, and blame GM for not notifying NHTSA for such safety issue after GM knew that a Volt will be crash tested.

    How the heck can you folks justify GM’s blame on NHTSA, when GM itself doesn’t know about the hazard? Gees…


  42. 42
    Noel Park

     

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (3:32 pm)

    DonC: At this point in time do you think the average tow truck driver or junk yard would know to disconnect and drain the battery?

    #35

    Yeah, or Volt owner, come to that. +1 And what does “drain” the battery mean anyway? Does it mean to completely discharge it, or drain out the cooling fluid, or both? And how do you do it?


  43. 43
    LauraM

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (3:46 pm)

    I think the real problem is that people don’t realize how much danger we already have in our everyday lives. It’s like the widespread fear of plane crashes when really, you’re in more danger driving home from the grocery store. But plane crashes make the news so…

    Rare events make the news, which makes people worry more. Right now, electric cars are rare and new. So everything makes the news. And when problems happen, which they always do with everything, people hear about them. So they get worried.

    But I doubt this will have a huge impact on the Volt’s sales.


  44. 44
    WopOnTour

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (3:55 pm)

    Assuming the side impact observed during testing resulted in a side airbag deployment, the battery management system would have immediately opened the high-voltage (HV) contactors within the battery box to prevent a possible short in the HV cabling from becoming a shock or fire hazard.

    But AFAIK there really is no published method of completely “draining” the HV battery. So I really don’t know how they would have accomplished this without some sort of special procedure and load tool provided by GM engineering. I have never heard of such a device or process.

    Following the actual published procedures to “DISABLE” the HV system results in the following:

    1. Once 12V is completely removed from the vehicle the HV contactors within the battery assembly are OPEN which essentially means ALL orange colored cables external to the battery box are COLD (0 Volts)

    2. Once the Manual Service Disconnect (MSD) is removed there is a physical “break” introduced into the series connected cell “triplets” inside the battery. This open circuit essentially cuts the battery in half, and results in TWO distinct 180 Volt sections, reducing potential peak power and creating further isolation.

    However, these two sections still remain capable of producing significant current flow should a completion of an electrical circuit connection between their + and – poles occur. (due to physical damage etc) These sections are also fused to prevent such an excessive current flow externally but a short internal to the battery (due to damage) can still create potential risks.HOWEVER after an accident there is to be an inspection for such physical damage to the battery assembly and if present the battery is to be removed and destroyed/recycled. This just isnt the case for the Volt but ALL hybrids and EVs from all manufacturers.

    Unfortunately the salvage yards, (and in this case NHTSA) often do not properly inspect these potentially dangerous items for physical damage as outlined by the OEMs for electrically powered vehicles moved into salvage. (such as the GM site http://www.recyclemybattery.com ) In many cases this damage might not be discovered until the battery is removed for potential salvage sale, meanwhile all the while a potential environmental risk and fire hazard might have existed for whatever period.

    So a few things need to change out there in the world of post-accident vehicle handling, and GM and other OEMs are doing their best to train First Responders (see http://www.gmtc.com ) and any downstream personnel that might come into contact with the wreck. But there still is a lot to do to raise awareness in these protocols.

    In the meantime I will reiterate what Jim Federico (GM’s Chief Engineer-Electric Vehicles) has said ““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.”
    http://www.chevroletvoltage.com/index.php/volt-blog/18-volt/2539-gm-statement-in-response-to-nhtsa-investigation.html

    HTH
    WopOnTour


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    kdawg

     

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (4:12 pm)

    Noel Park: And what does “drain” the battery mean anyway? Does it mean to completely discharge it, or drain out the cooling fluid, or both? And how do you do it?

    That’s brings up something I’ve been wondering for awhile. Has anyone “run out of gas” in their Volt yet, and what did the display show? We know there’s 30% battery still available, but you can’t touch it.


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    MichaelH

     

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (4:56 pm)

    kdawg: That’s brings up something I’ve been wondering for awhile.Has anyone “run out of gas” in their Volt yet, and what did the display show?We know there’s 30% battery still available, but you can’t touch it.

    Bookdabook has a thread in the forum called “Observations of an early adoptor.” Check out comment #154, bullet #2, on Page 16 of the thread.

    http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?6203-Observations-from-an-Early-Adopter/page16

    Better yet, read the whole thread. It is interesting reading material.


  47. 47
    nasaman

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (5:13 pm)

    kdawg: That brings up something I’ve been wondering for awhile. Has anyone “run out of gas” in their Volt yet, and what did the display show? We know there’s 30% battery still available, but you can’t touch it.

    I’m concerned that completely draining the Volt battery might cause permanent and irreversible damage to it chemically (which is why Li-Ion cells and batteries are normally stored and/or shipped
    in a partially-charged condition). My point is that the battery’s salvage value could possibly be fairly significant in most collisions —those in which the battery is not in any way physically damaged even if the car itself is “totaled”— but fully discharging it could very well reduce it’s salvage value to ZERO!

    What say you, GM?


  48. 48
    kdawg

     

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (7:36 pm)

    MichaelH: Bookdabook has a thread in the forum called “Observations of an early adoptor.” Check out comment #154, bullet #2, on Page 16 of the thread.
    http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?6203-Observations-from-an-Early-Adopter/page16

    Interesting… so maybe you can get to it a little bit.


  49. 49
    Noel Park

     

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (7:44 pm)

    MichaelH: Bookdabook has a thread in the forum called “Observations of an early adoptor.” Check out comment #154, bullet #2, on Page 16 of the thread.

    Well I have to agree with Bookdabook that there is a lot of gas powered range left when the low fuel warning comes on. I was coming home from a road trip the other night and didn’t really want to make another gas stop. The range read something like 45 miles when the warning came on. I pushed it far enough to make myself pretty nervous, something like 30 miles, and was really surprised to find that it only took something like 8.4 gallons. I personally wish that they would run it down to something like a real 20-25 miles.

    Kind of reminds me of my S10. It will go over 100 miles after the gas warning light goes on. I don’t pay any attention to it and drive on the trip odometer. Pretty useless, actually.


  50. 50
    volt11

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (9:00 pm)

    I’m going to try again since my original post, which was matter of fact and contained no profanity, was moderated out. I have an issue with the statement below the article above, stating in part, “We value everyone’s feedback on our daily stories, but – please – don’t post breaking news or other stories that we could be working on as a post here.”

    A) I don’t understand the point of it. Does our breaking a news story ahead of the site police somehow dilute the story? Or harm the site’s integrity? I certainly don’t see how.

    B) The original fire story ran 3 days ago and just today this front page story ran in this site. Honestly, we’re supposed to wait around before discussing such an important story while the editors prepare their “official” story?

    So the point of my original post, which I’ll make again, is that it is the members and their discussion, interaction, and mutual support that make this site worthwhile, at least 99%, and the people who now run the site (who bought it from Dr. Lyle) and post somewhat daily news articles are not the raison d’etre for gmvolt. Maybe I’m the only one here that sees that comment negatively, but it really does irk me.


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    MichaelH

     

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:17 pm)

    Noel Park: I personally wish that they would run it down to something like a real 20-25 miles.

    I recently heard a Q&A on that the other day, I think it was the latest webchat. The person asking the question said they had run the gas level down to where it registered low, and asked why the display stopped giving a useful range estimate. The answer from the GM rep was that with so little fuel left in the tank (probably less than 1 gallon) the estimate was just too inaccurate to display. I think they said it changed over in what amounted to ~35 miles of range left.

    I ran mine down to that level a couple weeks ago. I was near the end of a >450 mile round trip, with a full battery charge on each end. I only went about 10-15 more miles after it changed to Low Fuel. I chickened out and put 1.5 gallons in about 20 miles from home. The only reason I put that much in was that I just decided to put in $5 worth.


  52. 52
    MichaelH

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:30 pm)

    volt11,

    Apparently you don’t know that Lyle regularly “moderated” comments that would have otherwise broke the story that was to be the next day’s “big story.” It happened to me more than once (I was a little dense). I used to interact with Lyle by email to ask what was up. I suggest you cool down a little and just interact with Jeff when you have an OT comment that might be tomorrow’s big story. That’s what I have done twice lately (real lately, as in 7:17am this morning). As it says above,
    “please e-mail story ideas to jcobb@verticalscope.com

    Lyle’s system also “moderated” any comment with a link to what might be considered a competing blog site. Jeff has worked on reducing unwanted moderation.


  53. 53
    solo

     

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    Nov 14th, 2011 (11:57 pm)

    Hmmm. When these testing agencies, be it NHTSA or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash a car, they drain all the fuel and oil before the test. That way they won’t have an indoor fire in their crash test facility caused by raw vaporized gasoline shooting everywhere spraying electrical motors, cables, pullies, anything that might cause a spark. Pretty smart of them crash test engineers.

    SOOOOOO, Why don’t they drain the battery of an electric car before the crash? These tests are designed to check the survivability of a person due to trauma.

    When testing for fuel containment and fire hazards, the tests are conducted outside.


  54. 54
    James

     

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    Nov 15th, 2011 (12:04 am)

    FYI in the Seattle area: Chris Paine’s follow-up to Who Killed The Electric Car?, called Revenge Of The Electric Car is showing in the Seattle area at the Landmark Theater on University Way in the U District until November 17th.

    Sorry to get this out so late – I’ve been busy. Showtimes are: 7:10 and 9:10 pm until Thursday.
    I’m going tommorrow, hope to see you there!

    Volt, Bob Lutz, Charles Ghosn and Elon Musk will be front-and-center in director Paine’s latest documentary. It’s currently hitting several cities around America – hope the turnout is robust as it’s clear THE EV BATTLE IS ON. Detractors of Volt and Leaf are coming out of the woodwork, all with their own special interests. Chris Kobus was on a Denver CBS radio affiliate – and broadcast over YouTube downing Volt. Chris is a PhD and an Oakland University ( Rochester, Michigan ) professor specializing in biofuels – and he calls Volt “coal powered”. He says he is the director of the Clean Energy Research Center, which makes me think – what could his motivation be? He states the EPA is scamming America with it’s mileage numbers on Volt, and he asserts most of America is powered by coal plants. Even though his argument completely ignores the horrendous costs/impacts to search for, mine, transport, refine, protect and deliver fossil fuels vs. U.S. coal->plant->wire->U.S. home, he decides it’s his duty to inform the world that the Chevy Volt is a coal machine! .. This stuff is ridiculous, but it’s coming from all corners.

    Just for fun here are some 2009 numbers I’ve found which actually have improved on the less-coal side in the last couple years with more natural gas and sustainables today.

    Sources of America’s energy:

    47.9% coal

    23.97% natural gas

    20.3% Nuclear

    6.9% Hydropower

    3.6% Other Sustainables

    1% Petroleum

    Those are numbers quickly mined from Wikipedia. So what do you guys think? Where’s this guy coming from?

    RECHARGE! ,

    James


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    LauraM

     

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    Nov 15th, 2011 (12:15 am)

    Totally off topic, but according to the New York times, Google is “considering” manufacturing “driverless cars” in the United States–among other far out ideas.

    I know new auto manufacturing start-ups rarely succeed, but Google has resources that most start ups don’t. Of course, they’ve yet to really succeed in anything besides search (and arguably Android), and manufacturing anything is far outside their areas of expertise. But, anyway, I thought it was an interesting article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/technology/at-google-x-a-top-secret-lab-dreaming-up-thkkke-future.html?src=me&ref=general


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    Nov 15th, 2011 (1:27 am)

    Another one who cares NOT to read the article. Your questions have already been answered.

    (1) GM did NOT know about the potential fire hazard. Thus, GM didn’t have any safety protocol developed on draining the battery until AFTER it’s conducted its own test (to try to reproduce the fire incident).
    (2) GM did NOT tell NHTSA about draining the battery because…well, GM didn’t know about it as in (1) – yet it was quick and 1st to blame NHTSA for NOT draining the battery. However, GM did know that there would be a crash test NHTSA.
    (3) After the safety protocol was developed way later, GM still doesn’t have any tool to drain the battery. It won’t be out until some time next year. The only thing anyone can do right now is to have that special GM team to drain the battery, a team that probably didn’t exist until recently because GM didn’t know about the need to drain the battery, as in (1).

    See, if you read carefully on Jeff’s post, you will see that the problem lies within GM itself, not any other agency.


  57. 57
    nasaman

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    Nov 15th, 2011 (5:03 am)

    MichaelH: volt11,

    Apparently you don’t know that Lyle regularly “moderated” comments that would have otherwise broke the story that was to be the next day’s “big story.” It happened to me more than once (I was a little dense). I used to interact with Lyle by email to ask what was up. I suggest you cool down a little and just interact with Jeff when you have an OT comment that might be tomorrow’s big story. That’s what I have done twice lately (real lately, as in 7:17am this morning). As it says above…

    “please e-mail story ideas to jcobb@verticalscope.com

    Lyle’s system also “moderated” any comment with a link to what might be considered a competing blog site. Jeff has worked on reducing unwanted moderation.

    I fully endorse your comments here Michael! It’s more relaxed today than when Lyle owned the site. So in the interest of simple courtesy, let’s all restrain ourselves somewhat & try to not “scoop” him!


  58. 58
    volt11

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    Nov 15th, 2011 (7:33 am)

    nasaman: I fully endorse your comments here Michael! It’s more relaxed today than when Lyle owned the site. So in the interest of simple courtesy, let’s all restrain ourselves somewhat & try to not “scoop” him!

    I guess I never ran into that unfortunate issue (of worrying about the “scoop”) with the old site and Lyle. What surprises me is that people seem to think this policy is reasonable. As I mentioned in my previous post, we would have been sitting around here 3 days not discussing what’s possibly the most important Volt story of the past year, just out of “courtesy”. What if the story never showed up, when is the moratorium lifted?

    WE are what makes gm-volt worth anything at all. It’s our clicks that are the profit center of the site, and without our participation and interest it’s not worth anything to anyone. Posting a new thread about this kind of Volt-related story isn’t about “trying to scoop” anyone. The story is out there in major media, it’s absurd to suggest that we wouldn’t start talking about it. If that means that every new thread post needs to be cleared first to make sure I didn’t steal some golden nugget, I think that degrades the whole sense of community here.

    Lyle’s system also “moderated” any comment with a link to what might be considered a competing blog site. Jeff has worked on reducing unwanted moderation.

    And thanks for that info, MichaelH. That could be what happened.


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    Nov 15th, 2011 (8:30 am)

    volt11: What if the story never showed up, when is the moratorium lifted?

    Like I said, Jeff has an email. Keep the lines of communication open. Thanks for your reply.


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    stephent

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    Nov 16th, 2011 (2:28 pm)

    I’m in full agreement with volt11. I personally bookmark directly to the forums, not the gm-volt.com main home page. I check the home page periodically to read the articles, but I just use the forum much more often.

    To me the request not to post breaking news is a foolish, misguided attempt to rein in the flow of information on the internet. It can’t be done. Traditional media had to adjust, long ago. It’s unreasonable to expect us to always refrain from discussing breaking news for 3 days.

    If verticalscope doesn’t want competition for their articles from the forum, IMO it’s their own fault! They could simply NOT post forum titles/articles on the home page, just post their main articles, without the arrow things to move between them, just make their main articles bigger & take up the whole page. Instead of getting the users to fill in their home page with posts.

    Obviously they cannot keep up with the internet. If you can’t compete by having “the scoop”, then compete by having more thorough, more accurate, more in-depth information. Consistently well written articles will still draw people to the site, even if there’s no way you can post same day like news sites.


  61. 61
    GreenWin

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    Nov 20th, 2011 (7:06 pm)

    A very good discussion of a serious issue. Cogently, without panic or hyperbole. Clearly even the NHTSA erred here by not draining a damaged vehicle battery immediately – as is standard with a gasoline car.

    Unfortunately, opponents of EVs will try to use this to trash the safety record of VOLT and other EVs. It will not work as long as WE are willing to speak the truth about what really happened and how. The EV and Obama haters are trolling the net trying to spin this as a disaster story (aka disasterbation) – but they are easily countered. VOLT safety features are highest.

    VOLT is a great contribution to the energy future of planet Earth and we are proud to have worked with the team here and in Detroit that has brought it to market. No better automobile team in Detroit than Team Volt!