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.

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