U.S. safety regulators closed fire probe on the Chevrolet Volt

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 22, 2012

After concluding that the battery of the Chevrolet Volt doesn’t pose a significant fire risk following a crash, U.S. safety regulators shut down its investigation that has lasted eight weeks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a statement that it doesn’t believe that the Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles are at higher risk for a fire compared to gasoline-powered vehicles.

The NHTSA said that the revisions meant to boost the plug-in hybrid's 435-pound lithium-ion battery pack that General Motors announced on Jan. 5 are expected to reduce the possibility of this pack catching fire in the days or weeks after a crash. Last November, the NHTSA opened an investigation after there were two incidents reported wherein the battery pack of the Volt either caught fire or emitted sparks days or weeks after the crash tests.

Last June, a Volt’s battery caught fire three weeks after it was subjected to side-impact testing. GM released a statement to say that the agency’s decision to shut down the probe is “consistent with the results of our internal testing and assessment." GM emphasized that what it has done to protect the battery pack is meant “to make a safe vehicle even safer.” This conclusion allows GM to avert a potential damage to its reputation.

GM has used this ground-breaking car to symbolize innovation and fresh thinking at the post-bankruptcy GM. Even with the widespread praise for the Volt, its sales in the U.S. failed to reach GM’s target of 10,000 units. Only 7,671 Volts were sold in 2011.

While GM worked with the agency on the probe, it has always stated that the Volt is safe. GM executives said that the voluntary fix will make the car "safer" by strengthening the steel around the battery pack to prevent it from being punctured during a crash. A sensor will also be added to the battery pack to monitor coolant leaks.

The Chevrolet Volt has the Voltec propulsion system at its very core. This system combines an efficient and range-extending engine with pure electric drive, giving the car a range of up to 350 total miles.

Boasting a long-lasting life, the car’s battery consists of a 435-lb, 5.5-foot 16-kWh T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack that was manufactured in Michigan. This battery supplies energy to a 149-hp or 111-kW electric drive unit propelling the car. The Volt uses only the energy that is stored in its battery to deliver anywhere from 25 to 50 miles of electric driving that does not need fuel and that is tailpipe emissions-free. Of course, that distance still depends on the terrain, the weather, and the driving techniques used.

What’s more, the Volt’s battery is designed to give you value, quality, safety, durability, reliability, and performance. You will also be pleased to know that it is covered by an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty. GM engineers have already completed over a million miles and four million hours of Volt battery pack validation testing since 2007, including each pack’s 288 prismatic cells and nine modules. The people in charge of development, validation and testing have met many specifications and have validated each of the battery’s 161 components, of which 95% had been designed and engineered by GM.

Mickey Bly, GM’s executive director for global electrical systems, says that customers are committing to technology that would help them reduce their dependence on petroleum, and, in turn, the company is committing to give customers the highest standards for safety, quality, performance, reliability, and value.

The Volt seamlessly transitions to its extended-range mode when the battery’s energy is depleted. It inverts power from its technically advanced 1.4-liter 84-hp gasoline-fueled onboard engine to its electric drive unit in order to deliver up to 310 miles of additional range.

Electric driving is spirited, and this is what the Chevrolet Volt proves. Not only does it reach a speed of up to 100 mph, but its electric drive’s excellent low-speed torque of 368 Nm or 273 lb.-ft. takes it from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than nine seconds.

Charging the Volt’s battery is intuitive and simple as it can be done either through a dedicated 240V charging station or any 120V traditional household electrical outlet. The Volt can be entirely recharged in around four hours with the 240V charging station, while it can be fully recharged in 10 to 12 hours using the 120V outlet.

Once you plug the vehicle in, you can schedule either a delayed or an immediate charge, and you can even coordinate charging according to the time you will be using the car or leaving the house, or according to when the electricity rates are lower. You can also remotely monitor and manage the car through computer on MyVolt.com or through an exclusive smartphone app called Chevrolet Mobile App, which is powered by OnStar MyLink.

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