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Update: GM lab explosion didn’t involve Chevy Volt battery

This past Wednesday morning there was an explosion at General Motors’ Warren Technical Center that was originally blamed in part on the battery system in the Chevrolet Volt but more information has become available – highlighting the facts that this wasn’t a production battery, the battery itself didn’t explode and all of the GM employees involved are safe and sound.

The first reports this past Wednesday were that around 9am, a battery exploded in the General Motors Warren Technical Center in a high security portion of the Alternative Energy Center. GM did not make a statement right away but with comments made by various Warren officials who were on the scene; a great deal of information hit the media in the hours that followed the blast. We have now learned that there was an explosion but many of those early reports have proven to be incorrect to some extent.

First off, reports indicated early on that there were two workers injured and while one was treated locally, the other received life-threatening injuries and was sent to a Detroit hospital. Now that the smoke has cleared, we have learned that there were actually five GM workers injured in the blast with four of them individuals being treated as the scene while the fifth made a trip to a local hospital. However, none of those injuries were life-threatening.

Next, there was an explosion in the Alternative Energy Center but it was not a battery from the Chevrolet Volt that was involved and technically, there was not battery explosion at all. Leading up to the explosion, engineers in this testing facility were exposing a prototype battery to extreme testing measures. Some new reports indicate that this could be a battery planned for usage in future electric vehicles but right now, the battery involved has no production applications.


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Sounds like it was indeed a lead-acid battery. Sulfuric is the acid in the electrolyte of lead acid batteries and hydgrogen (or sulfides of hydrogen) are off-gassed normally. The problem starts when they are not vented. Rookie error. Weird this can happen in a GM lab. An inexpensive combustible gas sensor could have ben used to shut this process down and vent before the LEL level was reached. Perhaps it was inside a reactor vessel and something failed that was supposed to open.