In Case of a Fire: GM to Improve Battery Protection in the Volt


Chevrolet will soon order a voluntary recall for the Volt in order to improve battery protection.

The quality and safety problems that have plagued the Chevrolet Volt lately continue to haunt General Motors' top brass. Only days before the first press day of the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, GM announced their solutions to the safety concerns that were first raised when test-crashed Chevrolet Volts caught fire (albeit a few weeks after the crash test were actually performed). GM has now announced that the modifications, officially described as "enhancements," will be made to the vehicle structure and the battery coolant system.


These changes should improve the battery protection from any electrical fire that might happen, even weeks after any crash. In the last few weeks, since the NHTSA opened a preliminary investigation into the case, GM has been busy developing and testing the modifications to the structure. According to the automaker, between December 9th and 21st, crash tests with the enhanced structure were performed with so far positive results. Beginning next month, Volt owners will be asked to contact their local dealership in order to have the modifications installed in their vehicles.

As of now, we've been told the enhancements will include the following: strengthening an existing portion of the Volt's vehicle safety structure to improve battery pack protection in a severe side collision; an additional sensor in the battery coolant reservoir to monitor coolant levels; and a tamper-resistant bracket to the top of the battery coolant reservoir to help prevent potential coolant overfill. "These enhancements and modifications will address the concerns raised by the severe crash tests," said Mary Barra, GM senior vice president of Global Product Development.

"There are no changes to the Volt battery pack or cell chemistry as a result of these actions. We have tested the Volt's battery system for more than 285,000 hours, or 25 years, of operation. We're as confident as ever that the cell design is among the safest on the market." Meanwhile the investigation by the NHTSA into the burned Volts is still ongoing. However, by acting early, fast and decisive, GM is hoping that the NHTSA will not require a mandatory recall. The NHTSA said that it has concluded that the reason for both fire cases in the test-crashed Volts was probably due to "battery intrusion and coolant leakage."

The NHTSA performed also a side-pole impact test on December 22nd and the results showed no intrusion into the battery pack and no leakage, though the car is still being monitored for another few days. The new structure is already being implemented on the assembly line, but Volts that have already been built will be delivered to dealers will also be corrected. Volt sales last year topped off at 7,000; a disappointing figure compared to expectations of 10,000 units. In December, however, more than 1,500 Volts were sold despite the bad publicity from the fire cases.


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