Chevrolet Volt fire risk fix could cost GM over $10 million
Even though the 2011 Chevrolet Volt easily met or exceeded all of the crash test requirements set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government safety agency found that when a vehicle is involved in a violent side impact, the lithium ion battery and the related cooling system could be damaged. If the cooling system is damaged to the point that it begins to leak and the high voltage battery is not properly discharged after the accident, there is a chance that the Volt could catch fire. There are a great many “ifs” involved with the crashed Chevy Volt catching fire but regardless of how unlikely this situation is to occur while in the hands of an average owner; GM is working on a fix to prevent these post-crash fires.
Alterations made to the Chevrolet Volt could include reinforcing vulnerable sections of the battery pack, laminating the electric circuitry inside of the battery pack and strengthening the various components of the cooling system. These changes would prevent the battery from sustaining as much damage and even when it is damaged, the laminated internal workings and reinforced cooling system components could prevent the leaks that are causing these post-crash fires. Some sources expect that the alterations included in the fix could cost General Motors around $1,000 per vehicle and it is unclear whether GM will recall already sold Volt units to add the new components or if the company will simply upfit those models still in their possession. Depending on the ruling of the NHTSA, GM could be required to issue a recall for the Volts that have already been sold to add the new safety components. There are currently about 10,000 Chevrolet Volt electric sedans in the hands of dealerships and private owners so spending $1,000 per vehicle to add these new safety features could cost General Motors almost $10,000,000. This figure does not include any buy-back cost or rental car costs assumed by the automaker while privately owned Volts are being repaired so the total cost of addressing this post-crash fire risk could climb will above the $10 million mark.
Luckily, the only incidences of the Chevrolet Volt catching fire happened after each vehicle had been involved in an identical side-impact crash test and then left to sit in a parking lot for observation. In these fires, the battery was not properly discharged and the cooling system was damaged to the point that it began to leak. Over time, the leaking cooling made contact with the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) damaged areas on the battery and a fire broke out. Based on the unusual circumstances leading up to these Volt fires, the NHTSA and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) do not plan to lower their ratings of the electric Chevy and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has even provided his support for the Volt. However, with a risk of fire – even a very unlikely one – General Motors will continue to work to make the Volt as safe as possible in even the most unusual situations.
Other Volt News:
Chevy Volt battles back, beats Nissan Leaf handily in November 2011
GM may buy back Chevrolet Volts from owners concerned about fires
GM says de-charging after severe crashes to define new safety protocol for Chevy Volt
TorqueNews review of the 2011 Chevy Volt: 109mpg and endless range
Jay Leno drives his Chevy Volt 11,000 miles without buying gas
The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro stakes its claim as the safest car in the US