In what could be potentially bad news for GM, the Chevrolet Volt's battery has been confirmed to have caught fire.
In what could potentially be a serious PR issue for General Motors, it has been confirmed that a third Chevrolet Volt has caught on fire. This time, the incident occurred after the car was subjected to a side-impact "pole test" by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. GM is reporting that they are working with the NHTSA and all other automakers that use lithium-ion batteries in their vehicles regarding the safety of those batteries.
In the past, two Volts have previously caught on fire while in their owners' garage. The exact cause of that second fire still hasn't been determined. For now, the NHTSA is stating that, based on the available data, they "do not believe the Volt or other electric vehicles are at a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles....both electric and gasoline-powered have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash." After the crash itself, the Volt was rotated 90 degrees every five minutes while being exposed to extreme heat. Coolant did leak out of the battery pack, but the electric components remained in place.
The battery pack caught on fire three weeks after the test crash when the Volt was parked in an open storage yard. Both GM and the NHTSA also independently replicated the test and heat rotation procedure, but neither was able to reproduce the conditions in which the battery pack caught fire. At this point, it's only fair to give both GM and the NHTSA time for a complete investigation. However, we have no doubt that extended-range and EV critics will have a field day with this news.