Dec 01

Evaluating the Risk of Fire in a Chevy Volt

 

Editor’s Note: Another guest post from Dr. Destler, president Rochester Institute of Technology.

By Bill Destler

 

The recent tests conducted by NHTSA on Chevy Volt battery packs have raised concerns about the relative safety of the Volt, and other electric vehicles, compared to conventional gasoline powered vehicles. In the tests, Volt battery packs subjected to the kind of damage that might occur is a severe accident have caught fire or smoldered. In two of the three cases in which this behavior has occurred, the fires did not start until days or weeks after the crash tests. In the third case, sparks and smoldering were observed soon after the crash test but after the battery was flipped 180 degrees to simulate a car rollover. In a fourth test, no fire occurred. In none of the tests did NHTSA drain the battery of its stored energy after the crash tests. In fairness to NHTSA, the GM de-powering protocols were not issued until after their first Volt crash test, although they were in place well before the latest tests.

 

To date, however, NHTSA confirms that no fire attributable to the Volt’s battery has been reported out in the real world, either as a result of collisions or other circumstances. Given the publicity that any Volt mishap seems to generate, I feel pretty sure that if a Volt caught fire in a collision, we would have heard about it. Two fires have occurred in garages where Volts were parked, but in both cases the Volt was determined to not be the cause of the fires.

To put this information in context, we need to look at several factors that should, in a rational world, inform our decision as to whether the Volt represents a greater-than-average risk of fire in a collision than do conventional gas-powered vehicles. I realize that these considerations will not matter in the non-rational world of Fox News, but nothing we say here would deter their anti-Volt propaganda campaign, so let’s not waste our time with them.

First, let’s do a non-scientific, oversimplified statistical analysis to see if there is to date any indication that Volts are at higher risk for fires in collisions than other vehicles. There are only about 6,000 Volts out in the real world, which is not a large number compared to the roughly 250,000,000 passenger cars in the U.S. The most recent NHTSA statistics I could find indicate about 6,100,000 accidents occur annually involving passenger cars, and that about 3 fires per 1,000 crashes occur in which gasoline-powered automobiles are involved. If we assume that roughly 2,500 Volt-years of driving experience have been acquired to date (I think this is a pretty good estimate), we should expect statistically that about 61 Volts have been involved in collisions to date. Although a few Volt collisions have been reported on this site, this number seems high to me. I suspect that the Volt will have a lower rate of collisions given the excellent handling, braking, and road traction characteristics of the car. If this the case, then the risks associated with driving a Volt are even lower than estimated here.

Nevertheless, if we assume that the likelihood of a fire in a Volt collision is the same as it might be for other cars, 0.2 Volts should have caught fire to date, a number significantly less than 1 but greater than the 0 fires reported to date. On the other hand, if Volts were, say, 10 times more likely to catch fire in a collision than conventional cars, than one might argue that 2 Volt crash fires should have been observed. The point of this simple analysis is that there is no evidence in the real world to date to indicate that the Volt is substantially more likely to catch fire in a collision than any other vehicle.
Interestingly, unlike gasoline powered vehicles, the Volt has two energy storage systems that might contribute to the car catching fire in a collision, the battery pack and the gasoline tank, so it’s a good sign that collision fires do not seem to be happening at a rate greater than that for other cars.

Now let’s look at the Volt battery from a stored-energy perspective. At 16 kwh, a fully charged Volt battery contains the stored energy of only a half gallon of gasoline. In addition, the stored energy density in the Volt battery is much less than in gasoline, and the energy cannot be extracted at anything like the rate at which gasoline burns. The fire danger in a Volt battery pack, therefore, is not so much in the stored energy, which is relatively modest, but rather the possibility that sparking might ignite a fire that could spread to other flammable materials, including the gas tank. For that reason, the pack should be discharged as rapidly as possible after an accident per GM protocols. The unwillingness of NHTSA to own up to their failure to discharge the batteries after the latest crash tests is, in my opinion, both deceptive and unfair. Draining a gas tank in a car after a collision is standard practice everywhere, and I am sure that NHTSA does this routinely for their other test cars. Had they followed these protocols in the latest tests, the results would almost certainly have been dramatically different.

Nevertheless, GM might consider putting an auto-discharge feature in place in the Volt that would be activated in any collision that inflates the air bags, for example. This should be relatively simple to achieve on a cell by cell basis using the cell monitoring circuitry already present. I don’t think NHTSA should require GM to do this, as it would be the equivalent of asking other car makers to provide an automatic gas tank draining feature (to be drained where?) in the event of a collision, but it would add a measure of added safety to an already safe vehicle.

I think NHTSA is doing the right thing in looking into this issue, since they need to gain experience with this new automotive technology, but I do not believe Volt owners have any more reason to be concerned about the safety of their vehicles than do the drivers of other vehicles.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 1st, 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: 53


  1. 1
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    Dec 1st, 2011 (6:26 am)

    I have a question I hope someone can answer. I assumed that NHTSA thoroughly crash tested new models of cars BEFORE they reach production. A new model must pass these tests before being approved for production, right? If the answer is yes then why is the Volt still being crash tested?


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (6:45 am)

    Auto-drain gasoline tank? That will contaminate the environment more and become an even greater fire risk. A better idea is adding a special foam that will fill the tank upon activation (by the same air bag deployment system), then absorb and trap the gasoline in a jelly-like mess that cannot burn but simplifies the disposal. This can be added to every vehicle that still uses liquid fuel (even Diesel).

    Auto-discharge a battery is relative easy. Just add several high-wattage load resistors (only a few Ohms each) that can be switch on in parallel to every pack in the battery. The excess battery energy will be discharged as heat, which is not such a “contaminant” as gasoline vapors. But if EV manufacturers are obligated under law to do this, then ALL vehicle batteries must have the same for lead-acid batteries. This will increase the cost in every ICE vehicles, except those which still use a crank handle to start.

    I still believe that the Volt is safer than any ICE vehicle, since the battery and the gas tank are placed in the center toward the rear, which are the safest points in the body and chassis. If such an accident happened that can reach and damage these two item in the Volt, then the accident was so violent that no driver or passenger could survive. But the main safety issue of any vehicle is for the passengers anyway.

    GM will resolve the battery fire problem soon, and the Volt will be even safer than before.

    Raymond


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    Eco_Turbo

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (6:48 am)

    (click to show comment)


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    Raymondjram

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (6:53 am)

    jim1961:
    I have a question I hope someone can answer. I assumed that NHTSA thoroughly crash tested new models of cars BEFORE they reach production. A new model must pass these tests before being approved for production, right? If the answer is yes then why is the Volt still being crash tested?

    I read that the battery pack was tested outside of the Volt chassis, which is not a standard vehicle test. It is similar to removing then crash testing the gasoline tank in your vehicle by itself. Most gas tank will not survive this type of test, yet everyone assumes that they are safe in their cars. My two GM cars have their tanks between the rear seat and the trunk, which is much safer than the low hanging tanks near the exhaust muffler I see in many imports. Look under your vehicles and locate your gas tank. Then keep that in mind when you are on a highway, and worry if you stopped but the guy or gal behind you didn’t!

    Raymond


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    jt

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (7:47 am)

    Acquiring the impact force datum specifically and solely to the pack itself, out of the vehicle, is a necessary component for the NHTSA research, in addition to the need to know the sorts of things that could happen if a pack is not properly discharged within the GM protocols. This is the electrification industry being born, with the new learning taking place exactly as it should from the many appropriate channels as it must.

    The safety of design is actually what is showing up here. These are the most effective ways that the populace will understand, respect, and internalize the engineering and safety requirements of these components, and that they are not for experimentation nor tinkering if they happen to fall into the wrong, unqualified hands (outside of the numerous fail-safe attributes contained within the entire vehicle as a whole unit).


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    Jim I

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (8:04 am)

    IMHO, GM needs to jump on this quickly and put this issue to rest.

    Letting the NHTSA have all the public say in the matter while GM remains silent, is not the best approach.

    Even my wife mentioned yesterday: “If the car is so safe, then why did GM send a Fex-Ex letter asking if we want a loaner car?”

    If that small spark of doubt continues without a real response from the manufacturer, it could cause real problems for all electric vehicles.

    So get to work on this GM, get it fixed, and then go on every TV show and put articles in every magazine to tell everyone what was done.

    C-5277 – Proudly Purchased on 10-04-2011 In Youngstown, Ohio


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    lousloot

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (8:57 am)

    I’m a little confused — comparing electrictiy with gas? Too many differences.

    I think GM failed here. Someone should have devised a way to easily SAFE the battery packs. For around 15k/ea these packs should be pretty darn smart, plus if the battery gets accidentally SAFEd, then GM Goodwrench gets paid — is going to get a service call. The Volt console could show a blue screen of (battery) death.

    This bad press will not be going away any time soon.


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    George McDermand

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (9:00 am)

    Factoid:
    People who watch Fox know and understand less than those who do not watch television news at all. What a surprise.


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    kdawg

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (9:16 am)

    So is the NHTSA going to test the Volt batteries using the proper procedures? Not that I want to see more Volts destroyed, but this would seem like due dilligence.


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    BoultVolt

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (9:18 am)

    While I am a strong Volt proponent and usually enjoy the excellent posts, this one is very weak. The goal of putting the fires into context is fine. However, providing a bad non-statistical analysis as “context” is a-scientific and suggests a weak position that is struggling to defend itself. It is incorrect to say “there is no evidence in the real world”; NHSTA testing is in the real world, it is not simulation. With respect to evidence in the wild, there is insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion, which is quite different than saying there is no evidence. (The latter suggests that it is sufficient data from which to draw a conclusion and reject the Null hypothesis that the car is not safe). Its fine to use the gas tank as an analogy, but bad analysis of statistical data has no place in the discussion.

    The Volt is driving innovation and being subjected to more tests is important to define new safety protocols for this new technology. I’m happy to see the testing going on and sad to see the reporting about it is sensationalizing things, just as they sensationalized fires in houses that happened to have a Volt in the garage. There is probably some strong biases underlying the reporting but that is common in our society. Explaining to people that the media tends to sensationalize things, and providing the “draining the tank” analogy has satisfied everyone who has asked me.

    I believe that NHSTA needs to be more aggressive in clearly describing that this is advanced testing well beyond the 5-star rating the Volt has already earned. NHSTA should be making it clear if they did or did not “drain” the batteries (this article suggests they did not, but I’ve yet to see an official statement on the issue”. If NHSTA did not, GM should be pressuring that to be made official. NHSTA should be doing tests with batteries that have undergone the GM de-power protocol, and be evaluating the effectiveness of that protocol, and these first tests may provide a reasonable baseline for proper comparison. (Hint to GM: you might jump on this path to allow NHSTA to save face and GM to tell a good story to put this to bed. Next headline on this topic should read “NHSTA declares GM de-power protocol effective in preventing fires.”


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    Bonaire

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (9:25 am)

    Bill,
    >> The unwillingness of NHTSA to own up to their failure to discharge the batteries after the latest crash tests is, in my opinion, both deceptive and unfair.
    <<

    They did the latest test of three harnessed packs in order to do root-cause analysis reproductions of the May/June 3-week delayed car fire. They did own up to this – and even Mary at GM stated that these tests were done to reproduce the June fire. And it did 7-days later.

    My only concern is not the fire event. It is as you said – the smoke/sparks result when they 180* turned the batteries. Sparks and gasoline vapor do not mix. Puncturing or shorting of cell(s) of the pack might lead to such sparks and if the tank is leaking at the same time, there is additional risk. Now, to get a puncture, you need a very violent accident which could be too harsh for survivability.

    I write this as a rational example and I hope I don't get too many negatives for it.

    I do have an example which ties to RIT, actually. I was driving to a final exam in winter quarter 1986 and stopped at a stop-sign on Lomb Memorial (road on campus) turning left into the lots. I was in my '85 Honda Prelude. Got rear ended by a non-student & friends leaving from the gym in a Buick or similar heavy, older car, doing about 30 mph. It crushed my trunk into part of the back seat. I don't remember if I had a gas leak but it was enough of an impact that it could have crushed part of the rear section of the T-Battery pack in the Volt. If it generated some sparks that breached the pack compartment and had a leaking gasoline tank, it may have lead to a potential fire. Even if vapors got into the pack area without sparks exiting, might have a similar event. I was fine and was able to exit the vehicle after the accident and even walked up and took the final exam but had a stiff neck for a while. 3 months of body shop work and $5500 later and I had the car back.

    Cars are designed with crush zones and we need to make sure the crush zones do not impart damage to the battery cells such that they are breached and cause cell puncture as we do know that this cell chemistry does have some risk of thermal runaway. I KNOW that stronger high-tensil steel is in the Volt than in my old Honda and I bet the damage to a Volt would have been less than I experience with the Prelude. I'd like to know if NHTSA is doing any "puncture tests" for BEVs and EREVs where they simulate a breach of the packs. They probably should be doing something like that.


  12. 12
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    Dec 1st, 2011 (9:28 am)

    George, watching television news is no way to get educated about issues. The best way is to read more, and watch less. I get my lies from the left in the morning and my lies from the right in the afternoon. I figure the truth usually lies somewhere in between.

    George McDermand,


  13. 13
    ziv

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (9:51 am)

    I just checked Chevy.com to see what the highest VIN’s are that are available for sale, and there is one in Manassass at C11575 and one in Detroit even higher! So GM is getting back up to speed after a little slowdown in mid-November. Really curious to see what the sales numbers of Volts will be for November, I am hoping for more than 2,000, but if they sell a lot of Amperas the numbers might not get that high.

    8/1 – C440 – building around 150 per week (first 100 were test cars)
    8/23 – C1736 – building around 420 per week
    09/1 – C3032 – building around 500 per week
    10/3 – C4260 – around 273 per week for Sept
    10/17 – C6992 – around 1366 for each of the first 2 weeks of Oct
    10/25 – C8129 – around 995 for the third week of Oct
    11/1 – C8996 – around 873 for the fourth week of Oct
    11/8 – C9508 – around 512 for the first week of November
    11/16 – C10253 – around 745 for 8 days (rate of 652 per week)
    11/19 – C10372 – 119 in 3 days (rate of 278 per week)
    11/26 – C10921 – 549 in 7 days
    11/30 – C11581 – 660 in 4 days (rate of 1155 per week) or 1209 in 11 days (rate of 769 per week)


  14. 14
    Tagamet

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (10:00 am)

    Jim I: IMHO, GM needs to jump on this quickly and put this issue to rest.

    Letting the NHTSA have all the public say in the matter while GM remains silent, is not the best approach.

    Seems to me that GM (and possibly the author of the article) are both at a point where the data available is so meager that it’s pretty early to actually draw conclusions. It assumes that everything is statistically “normalized”. If you toss a coin twice and get tails twice…. It’d be great if GM could get “out in front of this”, but at this point they may be calling attention to a non-issue OR speaking with surety that’s not warranted (lose/lose).
    Although most folks here know that I’m a fan of Fox news, I didn’t agree with the post that “stopped reading” the article when Fox was slammed. How can you gather all the views if you rule out a source of opinions. A little like why I still tune in to MSNBC and NPR from time to time (g). JMO.
    Be well,
    Tagamet


  15. 15
    Bill Destler

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (10:03 am)

    To Boultvolt:

    Actually, if you read the piece carefully you will see that I said that “there is no evidence in the real world *to date*” to indicate that the Volt has any greater liklihood of catching fire in a collision, which is true. I also conceded that the analysis was oversimplified and nonscientific. Nevertheless, my point was to indicate that if the Volt really did have a significantly higher risk of catching fire in a collision then there *might* already be indications of this out in the real world. So in a sense, the analysis says, “so far, so good”. Nothing more, but perhaps significantly, nothing less.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (10:04 am)

    All manufacturers are required to meet all the various safety standards set by the government. I believe this requires submission of engineering test data and other measures of compliance.

    As for the actual NTHSA crash tests that are publicized, NTHSA selects models to be crash tested on a random basis. They conduct these tests and provide comparison data to the public (star ratings) that allow consumers to compare one vehicle to another. Not all models are tested every year. They try to test completely new models as close to public introduction as possible, but many times the tests are done months or a year after introduction.

    In the case of the Volt, the car performed exceptionally well in the full NTHSA crash tests conducted last May. In fact, the Volt achieved a Total Vehicle Safety Score of Five Stars – the highest possible.

    It was NTHSA’s failure to drain the battery after the crash tests that led to the first fire several weeks later.


  17. 17
    statik

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (10:11 am)

    ziv: I just checked Chevy.com to see what the highest VIN’s are that are available for sale, and there is one in Manassass at C11575 and one in Detroit even higher! So GM is getting back up to speed after a little slowdown in mid-November. Really curious to see what the sales numbers of Volts will be for November, I am hoping for more than 2,000, but if they sell a lot of Amperas the numbers might not get that high.8/1 – C440 – building around 150 per week (first 100 were test cars)8/23 – C1736 – building around 420 per week09/1 – C3032 – building around 500 per week10/3 – C4260 – around 273 per week for Sept10/17 – C6992 – around 1366 for each of the first 2 weeks of Oct10/25 – C8129 – around 995 for the third week of Oct11/1 – C8996 – around 873 for the fourth week of Oct11/8 – C9508 – around 512 for the first week of November11/16 – C10253 – around 745 for 8 days (rate of 652 per week)11/19 – C10372 – 119 in 3 days (rate of 278 per week)11/26 – C10921 – 549 in 7 days11/30 – C11581 – 660 in 4 days (rate of 1155 per week) or 1209 in 11 days (rate of 769 per week)

    You don’t have to worry about lost capacity due to retail Ampera production, as it has not begun yet. I have never seen a start date for production RHD vehicles yet at DHAM, but I’d wager it won’t be until somewhere around the mid January to mid February range.

    My guess is the 2,000 odd allocated Volts to Europe will be the first arrivers, and in LHD, starting sales in earnest this month, and into Q1. Opel/Vauxhell deliveries aren’t scheduled to start trickling to customers until Q2 of 2012.

    November will be the Volt’s best month for sales by far. No question at all.


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    LeoK

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (10:25 am)

    Here are a couple more real world comparisons I thought of:

    How many fires have started in leaf compost piles? Or how many fires have started after a pile of rags soaked with turpentine or other solvent have been left to spontaneously combust?

    Now we can add leaving a fully charged lithium ion battery in a wrecked car for weeks….


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    Tagamet

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (10:27 am)

    ziv:
    George, watching television news is no way to get educated about issues. The best way is to read more, and watch less. I get my lies from the left in the morning and my lies from the right in the afternoon. I figure the truth usually lies somewhere in between.

    And of course, they are not mutually exclusive sets (reading and watching). Best to do it all.
    Be well,
    Tag


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    Bill Destler

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (10:45 am)

    Actually, if given a chance, I would slam MSNBC as well. Both Fox and MSNBC have long since abandoned any pretense of objectivity and really exist to provide Republicans and Democrats something to watch that reinforces their views. I slammed Fox because I really believe that their anti-Volt stance is really more of an anti-Obama stance. They seem to associate the Volt with the GM bailout which they don’t agree with and therefore don’t seem to want GM to succeed. Actually, the major part of the Volt program was undertaken under the Bush administration, as we all know.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:09 am)

    ziv:
    I just checked Chevy.com to see what the highest VIN’s are that are available for sale, and there is one in Manassass at C11575 and one in Detroit even higher! So GM is getting back up to speed after a little slowdown in mid-November. Really curious to see what the sales numbers of Volts will be for November, I am hoping for more than 2,000, but if they sell a lot of Amperas the numbers might not get that high.

    8/1 –C440– building around 150 per week(first 100 were test cars)
    8/23 – C1736 –building around 420 per week
    09/1 – C3032 – building around 500 per week
    10/3 – C4260 – around 273 per week for Sept
    10/17 – C6992 – around 1366 for each of the first 2 weeks of Oct
    10/25 – C8129 – around 995 for the third week of Oct
    11/1– C8996 –around873 for the fourth week of Oct
    11/8–C9508 –around 512 for the first week of November
    11/16 – C10253 – around 745 for 8 days (rate of 652 per week)
    11/19–C10372 – 119 in 3 days (rate of 278 per week)
    11/26 –C10921 –549 in 7 days
    11/30 –C11581 –660 in 4 days (rate of 1155 per week) or 1209 in 11 days (rate of 769 per week)

    Can someone explain to me how to determine the production number of my 2012 Volt by the VIN number? The last eight characters of my VIN are “CU100411″.


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    Noel Park

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:11 am)

    LeoK:
    Here are a couple more real world comparisons I thought of:

    How many fires have started in leaf compost piles?Or how many fires have started after a pile of rags soaked with turpentine or other solvent have been left to spontaneously combust?

    Now we can add leaving a fully charged lithium ion battery in a wrecked car for weeks….

    #18

    I agree. +1 A non-issue IMHO.


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    Eric Zito

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:29 am)

    Kent,

    Kent, you’re #411 for the 2012 MY. Add that to the 3,975 of 2011 MY that were built, and you’re # 4386 overall. Congrats, hope you love it!

    EZ Volt
    #6038 overall…


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    CorvetteGuy

     

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:30 am)

    George McDermand: Factoid:People who watch Fox know and understand less than those who do not watch television news at all. What a surprise.

    Everyone here should email a copy of today’s post and get them to read it on the air. Oh, and Rush Limbaugh too.


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    CorvetteGuy

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:32 am)

    Kent: The last eight characters of my VIN are “CU100411″.

    Yours is #411. It looks like you answered your own question.


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    statik

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:34 am)

    statik: You don’t have to worry about lost capacity due to retail Ampera production, as it has not begun yet. I have never seen a start date for production RHD vehicles yet at DHAM, but I’d wager it won’t be until somewhere around the mid January to mid February range.My guess is the 2,000 odd allocated Volts to Europe will be the first arrivers, and in LHD, starting sales in earnest this month, and into Q1. Opel/Vauxhell deliveries aren’t scheduled to start trickling to customers until Q2 of 2012.November will be the Volt’s best month for sales by far. No question at all.

    /not quite by far, but still best, heeh
    (I’ll leave the talking point for tomorrowl…get writing Jeff, lol)


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    Srschrier

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:43 am)

    While its well known the LG Chem battery was rigorously tested by GM before the Volt went into production, let’s hope the next generation Volt has a more advanced battery redesign that further minimizes any potential fire safety issues.


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    CorvetteGuy

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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:48 am)

    Even though the crash test simulates a real-world accident, the reporting of a fire hazard seems totally unfair to me. If your home suffers from a 7.0 earthquake, then when it’s over you DON’T go out and shut of the gas line at the meter, when the house explodes it your own dang fault. The NHTSA should take responsibility for their actions rather than blame the car or the automaker.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (11:50 am)

    My suspicion is on range extender part , temp maintenance, stale gas burning etc for the cause of fire. Not the battery. I remember there was a fire after weeks on the volt after weeks on the first fire ( garage with a volt and hand made suzuki EV ) . May be its possible that some of the maintenance functions are getting triggered after weeks and they didn’t know the car is in crashed state.

    Again if it was battery, the other electric vehicles also should have been in same problem.

    I think GM should do some more work to stick to the principle “Keep it simple” in version 2. The power train should depend only on a database of predefined values and some sensor inputs to define the mode of driving . The stale gas burning logic should be like a flag is raised when stale gas is detected and the car should switch to CS mode on next run and display a notice to the driver that car switched to CS mode for stale gas prevention. Reducing the lines of code in the power-train may be a great idea.

    above is only my thoughts :-)


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (12:01 pm)

    How about this: When the OnStar System notifies emergency services that a Chevy VOLT has been in a collision, the OnStar Advisor should remind emergency services that special steps should be taken to drain the battery charge. That should take care of the problem without the need of any further enhancements or modifications to the vehicle design.

    Next case.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (12:03 pm)

    We have this ad on the radio locally where it starts: “Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?”…

    Personally I am VERY sick and tired of all this Volt/Fire nonsense. Now I know I’m starting to sound like the old “get off my lawn!” guy here, and I’m only 51… But gimme a break already!

    An entire article here with zero new information. This has all….ALL been hashed over here nineteen times over. I understand slow news days n’ all, but the only “new” info here is that the Volt’s pack represents about a half gallon of fuel. Nice tidbit but not worth a whole day’s article.

    Is the Volt – “fire hazard” story big? Sure it is. 1237 articles on Google big, and growing. Is it water cooler faire, and being talked about by Mr. and Mrs. Smith at 1 Main St. USA and Canada? Sure is… Yesterday my sister who calls herself a “car person” but never has taken any time to learn about them ( sound familiar? ) called me special and said – ” HEY – YOU HEARD ABOUT ALL THE VOLTS CATCHING FIRE?!” – Sheesh – I thought, “this is big!”

    Every one of us Volt-heads and GM will be trying to put out these fires ( not real ones – media fires-rumor fires ) for some time to come. The house fires? Not really stories with any staying power – BUT when the NHTSA jumps out with big announcements and investigations – BIG STAYING POWER! It’s fodder for every right-wing opinion show out there, and there are a LOT!

    So a better choice of article may be – WILL THE NHTSA INVESTIGATION KILL VOLT? The bigger questions are – Why has this gov. institution singled out Volt? IMO GM added about 500 stories to Google when it announced the loaner program in it’s press conference. That announcement alone gave the media ANOTHER headline – Go look, go Google away! IMO GM should have stood strong beside Volt and sent out the loaner letter silently to all current Volt owners. Toyota did this re: their humongous Prius headlight issue – and it slipped silently under the radar whilst media was drooling over the unintended acceleration issue/non-issue and some Congressman who was showing his package to women on Facebook! For all who do not know, the Prius 2nd and 3rd gens that were equipped with HID headlights ( mine included ) have big issues – they go out about 5 mins past your warranty period, now if THAT’S not a safety issue WHAT IS? I searched the web for months and the only talk about it was on Prius and Toyota forums , comparing the bad experiences and thousands of dollars dealers and Toyota were charging for the fix – people grumbling and comparing bad headlight stories. Finally a class-action lawsuit sprung up on both coasts, again garnering ZERO PRESS, and nearly two years later – Toyota finally reversed it’s position on the subject.

    The spark in battery #3 as described in GM’s press conference didn’t include any description of smoke as I remember, and it sounded so small and insignificant ( Barra said “one spark” – not “sparks; smoke…) , that I’d consider it a non issue – it didn’t heat up anything, nor cause any fire. Remember they’re bashing these battery packs. Anyway I spend ten minutes explaining everything to my sister – as she yawned and said , “well, whatever..” – you see media is smart – SENSATIONALISM SELLS – and people really don’t care about the facts.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    VOLT – MORE DRIVE, LESS FILLING! ,

    James


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (12:10 pm)

    FYI – some things I learned a couple days ago from GM.

    Regarding OnStar:
    Once your subscription ends you will not have access to any of the OnStar services. That includes the RemoteLink mobile app. When customers decide to end the service we no longer have a connection to the car, and thus will not be able to detect a crash.

    Regarding draining the battery:
    We send out specialized people and use a tool which attaches to the battery and draws the power from battery. Eventually we expect this equipment to be widely available but for now we handle that.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (12:30 pm)

    Bill Destler: They seem to associate the Volt with the GM bailout which they don’t agree with and therefore don’t seem to want GM to succeed. Actually, the major part of the Volt program was undertaken under the Bush administration, as we all know.

    Now now, we can’t let the facts get in the way of a good smear job.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (12:33 pm)

    This is not only a Volt issue. If the same analysis was done for all electric vehicles currently being shipped with lithium-ion batteries, as was done for the Volt, the incident of fires would be even lower.
    Based on what I have read, NHTSA was really conducting a “what if” test on the Volts batteries. This is a good thing!
    Unfortunately,the media and the anti-government faction, seemed to have completely ignored this. Of course, the way the information was released by the NHTSA has not helped.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (12:51 pm)

    Not sure if this would happen w/the Volt battery.

    (Bear Grylls punctures a lithium battery to make a fire)

    http://youtu.be/7gZ8FHEUCl8

    bear.jpg


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (1:11 pm)

    Oh, youtube is full of LiPo fires out there. Either over-charging, puncture, dead-short.

    Interestingly, similar videos exist of A123 batteries under same circumstances not going up in flame due to the chemistry. Spark EV should be fine in terms of these tests when NHTSA does their crash tests.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (2:10 pm)

    Seriously, the cable media and most papers are like a big dog. If you’ve ever had a dog, they’re not too hard to distract, with a hot dog, or a frisbee, the girl dog walking by on the street – whatever. GM played the Volt NHTSA story all wrong. In attempting to “get ahead” of the story, Ruess and Barra made it worse. The whole loaner idea backfired – I could hear a kind of buzz when Ruess announced it – like “HUH?! LOANER PROGRAM?! ( pant! pant! )….Duhhh, if there’s a LOANER PROGRAM, THERE MUST BE SMOKE, and WHERE THERE’S SMOKE THERE’S FIRE….duhhhh….PRINT IT!”

    The big dog of media has so many examples: Remember a few weeks back when Wolfe Blitzer got wind of some Christian pastor who opened up the Heritage Foundation’s Rep Presidential Candidate Debate? Some evangelical Baptist pastor who was endorsing Perry had told a TV reporter Christians should support Perry because Romney is a Mormon. Wolfe Blitzer, like any dog, got wind of the smell and opened up a truly non-issue, non-existing can of worms – THEN HE RODE IT LIKE A PONY FOR A WEEK! Every single hour upon hour for one week Wolfe brought out “experts” to analyze this piece of raw meat, and Blitzer LITERALLY MADE A STORY FROM NOTHING – acting as if it were HEADLINE NEWS! – COME AND GET IT – BREAKING NEWS!!!

    It was truly pathetic – but it seemed to work, because after a couple days, other news orgs started running similar stories and had big Mormons on to state how they thought it all so disgusting. Hey, I’m a Christian, and I have never , EVER considered Mormons true Christians, not even close…Yet I wouldn’t NOT vote for a candidate I agreed with because he belonged to what I feel is a false church – I believe in the seperation of Church and State, right?

    GM’s play could have been to out somebody else – or call a NYT auto editor or someone who owed ‘em, and just leak a story-ANY STORY! Sad how it all works – but GM should be the wiser. If GM wants to pay me a nice sum – I’ll take care of it for them. In order to deal with dogs you have to DISTRACT THEM. “Hey FOX – We sent out a NYT guy to Obama for comment on FISKER AUTOMOTIVE and he declined!”Fox has been gnawing on Solyndra for months, and they desperately need new kibble. Hey CNN – A Ford official announced they were marketing pink cars to women – SEXISM!!!!”… “Hey MSNBC – We got footage of a Republican Congressman drinking too much at one of our parties and COMING ON TO A PAIGE! “….etc etc… EASY! Like dogs, they run off – BARK! BARK! BARK! – “Get somebody on this – STOP THE PRESSES!!!” This is how it works.

    Media dogs are laying in wait for any piece of meat they can wield at the folks – to get ratings and sell Viagra and Mesothelioma commercials. GM played into the game and tossed them a pork chop. It’s sad because NHTSA started it all by making public announcements about an investigation that was not completed , with too little detail, without any final decisions, recalls or ONE VICTIM!

    RECHARGE! ,

    James


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (2:42 pm)

    James: Seriously, the cable media and most papers are like a big dog. If you’ve ever had a dog, they’re not too hard to distract, with a hot dog, or a frisbee, the girl dog walking by on the street – whatever.

    Or a “SQUIRREL”!

    (funny video on the media’s quick transition of attention from Bachman to Perry in August)
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-august-16-2011/indecision-2012—michele-bachmann-fever—rick-perry-s-america

    (not trying to get political.. just agreeing w/you about the media)


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (3:06 pm)

    One other tactic GM has at it’s disposal is: Get on the horn to every media outlet from largest to smallest and just state the case: “We feel there has been no safety complaints from customers, no victims and no real proof from NHTSA of any hazard or danger – other than a 3 week old totalled Volt they failed to discharge – and a couple battery packs they smashed that did’nt yield any certain result.” For this reason – if you run this on the air – or in print, we’ll sadly pull all of our advertising from your station; company. – Yours Truly, GM”

    What is your opinion on that? Pretty powerful huh? I don’t really see it backfiring, they NEED GM’s money and they certainly don’t want to piss them off. Truth be told, there is no story. Not so far.

    Another question: Will a recall associated with this kill Volt altogether? What extent do you feel the damage to Volt would be?

    RECHARGE! ,

    James


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (3:16 pm)

    James: as she yawned and said , “well, whatever..” – you see media is smart – SENSATIONALISM SELLS – and people really don’t care about the facts.

    Very true. We could start spreading Chuck-Norris-ish rumors about the Volt. Similar to “Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer, but he never cries”; we could say “Did you know for every purchased Volt, a terrorist dies?”. Or “Did you know every Volt is equiped with an EMF blocking feature so the Government can no longer track you (like they typically do)”. Sensationalism is easy when you are making things up.

    { NOTE: The previous statements were not meant to be factual statements } LOL


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (4:17 pm)

    I just stopped by Paradise Chevrolet in Ventura, Ca. Talked with the sales manager for about 15 minutes. He was very upfront with sales numbers and repair issues. Says he has seen very few issues with the 25 Volts he has sold. And he just got 2 more on the lot. One black and one silver. These are available to purchase.

    No Plug, No Sale!


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (4:32 pm)

    ziv,

    The truth does *not* fall somewhere in the middle. That’s the Overton window, which has been pushed so far to the right as to make current Democratic party policy in some cases to the right of Republican positions from 30+ years ago. Faux balance is as bad of an idea as Faux news, because it makes you think you’re being objective, when the truth has actually been pushed entirely out of the conversation. What news source on the “left” is actually providing realistic discussion of sustainability, renewable energy, and environmental economics? Which channel do you turn to if you want to hear about the enormous fossil externalities (costs) being borne by society, and the true business opportunities of efficiency and renewables? And most importantly, where is the left-wing equivalent of the enormous sums of money being spent promoting right-wing propaganda in this country? The answer is nowhere, because the corporations and fossil-fuel producers have the money, and they use it to buy influence and elections of low-tax and so-called “free market” politicians. Who in turn keep up the gravy train of subsidies flowing to those same filthy industries.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (4:40 pm)

    Eric Zito,

    Greetings. Eric, our 2012 Volt vin ends with CU107329. Would you say our volt is #7329 and added to the 3975 in 2011 would be #11205 overall?


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (4:53 pm)

    From Volt team:

    Look at the last 8 digits of your VIN. If it starts with a B, it is a 2011. If it is a C, it is a 2012. For example, if I owned a 2012 Volt with the production number of 10,000, my Volt number would be C10000.


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (5:39 pm)

    kdawg:
    From Volt team:

    Look at the last 8 digits of your VIN. If it starts with a B, it is a 2011. If it is a C, it is a 2012. For example, if I owned a 2012 Volt with the production number of 10,000, my Volt number would be C10000.

    Kdawg,

    You referenced the last 8 digits of the VIN, but your example only shows 6 digits. If you look at Bob’s (#43) VIN of CU107329, or my VIN of CU100441, how would you interpret our production numbers?


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (6:32 pm)

    kdawg: { NOTE: The previous statements were not meant to be factual statements } LOL

    Whew, well *that’s* a relief.
    Be well,
    Tagamet


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (6:37 pm)

    BlackSun: ziv,

    The truth does *not* fall somewhere in the middle. That’s the Overton window, which has been pushed so far to the right as to make current Democratic party policy in some cases to the right of Republican positions from 30+ years ago. Faux balance is as bad of an idea as Faux news, because it makes you think you’re being objective, when the truth has actually been pushed entirely out of the conversation. What news source on the “left” is actually providing realistic discussion of sustainability, renewable energy, and environmental economics? Which channel do you turn to if you want to hear about the enormous fossil externalities (costs) being borne by society, and the true business opportunities of efficiency and renewables? And most importantly, where is the left-wing equivalent of the enormous sums of money being spent promoting right-wing propaganda in this country?…

    Aljazeera

    Be well,
    Tagamet


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (6:52 pm)

    Kent: Kdawg,
    You referenced the last 8 digits of the VIN, but your example only shows 6 digits. If you look at Bob’s (#43) VIN of CU107329, or my VIN of CU100441, how would you interpret our production numbers?

    Good question; one for the Volt team or your Volt Advisor I guess. I posted what I was told, but maybe the “1″ after the CU signifies something else. That makes me wonder what the “U” signifies?


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (7:31 pm)

    VIN diagnosis: http://www.vinguard.org/vin.htm

    VIN of CU107329 = C7329 (2012 7329th built)
    VIN of CU100441 = C441 (2012 441st built)


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (9:49 pm)

    kdawg:
    So is the NHTSA going to test the Volt batteries using the proper procedures?Not that I want to see more Volts destroyed, but this would seem like due dilligence.

    They only destroyed one Volt in May. 3 batteries in November. GM should donate 5 production Volts, have them smashed, have them follow protocols and see if they ignite….ever…

    MrEnergyCzar


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    Dec 1st, 2011 (10:41 pm)

    Bonaire: VIN diagnosis: http://www.vinguard.org/vin.htm
    VIN of CU107329 = C7329 (2012 7329th built)
    VIN of CU100441 = C441 (2012 441st built)

    Looks like “U” is the plant code
    U: Detroit Hamtramck
    Digits 12~17 are the sequence number “Consecutive 6 digit number, number starting each new model year with 100001″

    http://service.gm.com/dealerworld/vincards/pdf/vincard%202012%20car.pdf

    (not sure why they dont start with 0)


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    Dec 2nd, 2011 (2:35 pm)

    statik: You don’t have to worry about lost capacity due to retail Ampera production, as it has not begun yet. I have never seen a start date for production RHD vehicles yet at DHAM, but I’d wager it won’t be until somewhere around the mid January to mid February range.
    My guess is the 2,000 odd allocated Volts to Europe will be the first arrivers, and in LHD, starting sales in earnest this month, and into Q1. Opel/Vauxhell deliveries aren’t scheduled to start trickling to customers until Q2 of 2012.
    November will be the Volt’s best month for sales by far. No question at all.

    Jay,

    11,075 2012′s had passed the paint stage on November 28th, and 3975 2011′s were produced for a total of 15,050. ~6000 were purchased at retail, and no Amperas have been produced so far. If 2000 Volts are allocated for Europe than what accounts for the remaining 7050 produced so far?

    ~4200 are currently in transit or on dealer lots in prep as pre-sold, with some for sale at large. More are at D’Ham waiting for shipping or in quality control, and there were some fleet sales. That sound about right? And how many fleet sales were delivered? Were any of the fleet sales included in the sales totals of ~6000 to date?

    Or have the 2000 Volts to be exported to Europe yet to be allocated for Europe, leaving NA vehicles at 9050 not yet sold out of 15,050 produced? If the last is true there should be trucks and trains bursting at the seams with Volts.


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    Dec 3rd, 2011 (11:46 am)

    from now on, gm should include a free bag of marshmallows with every volt sold. :-)