GM’s battery explosion becoming an election year story

Article by Christian A., on April 13, 2012

An explosion and fire occurred very recently at the battery-testing lab of General Motors in Warren, Mich., according to reports. At least one individual was hospitalized due to injury. Engineers at GM were testing a prototype lithium ion battery when the accident happened. 

As soon as the report was publicized, many people in media and the auto industry gave their opinions and considered the accident as another setback for the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid automobile. It has been 16 months since this vehicle was introduced in the market but it has yet to have a single battery exploding or catching fire in the course of normal driving scenario.

Dennis Virag, who is the president of Automotive Consulting Group in Ann Arbor, Mich., commented that the news regarding the accident can’t be seen as "not positive" for General Motors and lithium ion. He further stated that it prompts discussions regarding the dangers of batteries. 

On the other hand, one should remember that a prototype is just a prototype, which means that it will not be in any production vehicle until it goes through testing and achieves certification. Also, the battery being tested that exploded at the GM lab was not manufactured by the supplier of the batteries for Volt, The Wall Street Journal reported. Korea-based LG Chem makes the lithium ion batteries for the vehicle.

What makes the Chevrolet Volt stand apart from the rest is the Voltec propulsion system which is able to combine an electric drive with an efficient engine that helps extend range. Through the Voltec system, the Volt is able to deliver a maximum total range of 350 miles. The battery of the Volt is composed of the T-shaped 5.5 feet lithium-ion battery pack which weighs 435 pounds (198.1 kilograms). Manufactured at a facility located in Brownstown Township, Michigan, the battery pack generates output of 16 kWh.

Should the driver decide to utilize only the energy inside the battery, it can still allow the Volt to travel between 25 miles and 50 miles. Since this means electric driving, then there are zero emissions. Actual range will depend on the current temperature, the type of terrain, and the driving technique.

Once the energy in the battery has been depleted, the system immediately shifts to the extended-range mode. Power to the electric drive unit is now sourced from the highly advanced onboard 1.4-liter gas-powered engine capable of 84 hp (63 kW). This gives the Volt an extra range of 310 miles. Despite running solely on electricity, the Volt more than shows that driving can be spirited.

Torque is measured at 273 lb.-ft. (368 Nm) and possible even at low speed. Maximum speed of the Volt is expected to be 100 mph. Meanwhile acceleration from 0 mph to 60 mph is possible in barely 9.0 seconds. Acceleration from standstill to a quarter of a mile on the other hand is under 17.0 seconds. In developing the Volt, the different teams, from development to the validation and to the testing, managed to meet the required thousands of specifications.

In addition, they managed to validate all of the 161 components of the battery, with 95% of them actually designed and engineered at GM. In fact, engineers at GM have conducted validation testing going as far back as 2007 and since then managed to complete at least 4 million hours and 1 million miles.

This was done not only for the nine modules of each pack but also for the 288 prismatic cells. No wonder that the battery of the Volt is able to offer durability, performance, quality, reliability, safety, and value. The warranty that covers the battery is good for eight years or 100,000 miles.

Topics: gm

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