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Old 11-27-2011, 01:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Article: U.S. opening formal probe into GM Volt fire risk

Hello -

While I was at the LA car show I spoke with someone about the Volt and they told me about this :

U.S. opening formal probe into GM Volt fire risk | Reuters
Quote:
U.S. auto safety regulators are opening a formal investigation into fire risks in General Motors' Volt vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Friday.

The NHTSA said it was taking the action after recreation this month of a May crash test resulted in fires in two out of three tests.

"While it is too soon to tell whether the investigation will lead to a recall of any vehicles or parts, if NHTSA identifies an unreasonable risk to safety, the agency will take immediate action to notify consumers and ensure that GM communicates with current vehicle owners," NHTSA said.

...

In the May crash test, the Volt's 400-pound lithium ion battery pack was damaged and a coolant line was ruptured.

Toyota Motor Corp's Prius, which dominates the hybrid vehicle market, is powered by older nickel metal hydride battery technology.

This month's tests aimed to simulate a real-world, side-impact collision into a tree or pole, followed by a rollover.

After a test on November 16 that did not result in a fire, a temporary increase in temperature was recorded in a test on November 17, NHTSA said on Friday. It said that battery pack caught fire.

During the test on November 18, using similar protocols, the battery pack was rotated within hours after being impacted and it began to smoke and emit sparks.

...
CarloSW2

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Old 11-27-2011, 02:22 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I see that another Volt was damaged recently in a house fire, although it was not the source of the fire.
However, I wonder was it plugged in on charge at the time?
The Volt is designed, as I understand it, to plug into any old household electrical outlet ...and draw 15A out of it for several hours.
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Old 11-27-2011, 11:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Like gasoline doesn't catch fire in crashes? (Even if not as often as Hollywood would have us believe :-)) So it seems the only difference is that the gas catches fire immediately, while the battery catches fire three weeks later...

PS: And not even in crashes. I remember the time my ex left her pickup idling in the driveway while she ran into the house for something, and when she went back out it was burning.
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Old 11-28-2011, 11:42 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Seems like the battery can be instrumented for temperature and g-forces to provide an alert if damage is detected.
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Old 11-28-2011, 02:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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They directed that after a major crash the battery pack be disconnected and the cooling fluid be drained.
Gasoline cars have their fuel systems drained after a major collision for the same reason.
Chevy Offering Volt Owners Loaner Cars Until Fire Investigation Is Resolved | Fox News
To me it says something that the batts didn't cook off for two weeks after impact !
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Old 11-28-2011, 07:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Every year one out of every 1355 gasoline cars on the road will catch fire.
In comparison there are enough electric cars on the road that last year statistics say that 11 of them should have caught fire, yet the only car that would have fit those statistics wasn't even the source of the fire! it was not related to the car, the charging station or any of the wiring hooked up to the charging station and as has been pointed out, the other two that caught fire were crashed, rolled over and put in storage improperly where they caught fire weeks later.
But the fact of the matter is that they should investigate and see what we can learn or any way that they can be made safer, but to say that they are dangers vehicles is unreasonable.
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:49 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Certain interests will latch onto any old problem to diminish EV reputations, in this circumstance i doubt it at all warranted.

Using this logic we could say that no gasoline cars should be sold because if you smoke while filling you might blow up. Or likewise if you crash a gas car you might also blow up.

At some point you need to say that there is an acceptable risk, I have a feeling you are more likely to die crashing the vehicle than from the battery fire that starts weeks later.
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Old 11-30-2011, 04:18 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Caution: GM Rant / Editorial

Intro

So, I was in Detroit today and stopped by the coffee shop for a local Free Press Newspaper and a cup o' java before heading to my work location. On the way out the door I glanced at the headline about Chevy Volt fires, yeah -- nothing new (or newsworthy) but then I read the first paragraph of the article entitled "GM reassures Volt owners after battery fires", and nearly tripped over the curb as I read -- and I quote:

Quote:
"...offering a free, indefinite loaner vehicle to any who are nervous...
That's reassurance? Indefinite? What??? I had flashbacks to the EV1, "give us your cars baaaack..."

Sense of Justice

I felt like taking a trip down to the Renaissance Center and see if they would trade my rental Impala for a re-assuredly safe Volt -- just to see. And maybe find who engineered this blatant undermining of the Hybrid, with a vast public not entirely sold on the idea (let alone a range-extended electric) and look them in the eye and ask if they honestly had good intentions in restoring confidence with this press release, beyond obviously selling a product people want, for a profit, which is OK and what they frankly need to do as a business. Or perhaps pandering to big oil -- insert conspiracy theory here. Plus, according to investigating from Jalopnik, they just might loan you ANY Chevy. Corvette anyone? Camaro SS? Oh the temptation -- but let's remember that Volt owners chose wholeheartedly to be Volt owners, and are a rare bunch of 5000 or so, who have demonstrated exceptional FE in many cases.

Actual Visit to the GM Headquarters Onsite Hotel and Volt Marketing Commentary

Upon recommendation of a colleague, I stayed at the "Ren-Cen" Marriott last Month, just to experience what the campus had to offer, reluctantly after what GM's cars have failed me in my own past, let alone what they have done to America's Diesel perspective, small car reliability over time, the 80's, Quad-4, stop me here. But anyway, it appealed to this "Car Guy", so I stayed there and explored.
The "Volt Age" and Some Good Examples of the Past

So the Hotel was intermingled with the GM HQ, and there was a rather nice "100-years of Chevy" exhibit in a lower lobby area, with the Volt as the centerpiece as you enter the circular path of displays (heck, the hotel had a hip "Volt Bar" to enjoy your favorite beverage in a club atmosphere). Other display notables were proper classics like the 1st generation Camaros, a '55 Nomad, an early Impala, '63 Malibu, '55 Bel-Air, a historic piece -- the first automobile to wear the Bow-tie 100 years ago, and the new cars line from the high-tech, high-priced Corvette ZR-1, to the thrifty and well-received Cruze. I really enjoyed the exhibit, but was reminded how the brand screwed up over the years, even after I came full circle, back to the Volt.

Modern Lineage

Nearly absent, were easily forgettable vehicles from the mid-70's, 80's, and up to the current lineup, except a '76 Pickup and the '89 'Vette ZL-1, both of which were important opposites from the rugged simplicity of the pickup, to a high-tech flagship and the end to the days of low-tech, high-emissions efficiency that wasn't going to cut it anymore. Dare I say, the NSX to Honda of the same time. In full disclosure, there was an '89 Z-28 Indy Pace Car (important for the time with V-8 power on-tap) and an '08 Tahoe Hybrid (still leaves me, um... nevermind).

Happy Days
I still enjoy the good times in seeing the USA in a Chevrolet, from a '67 Camaro RS/SS to Corvettes, 4X4 Pickups to Berettas, and rented nearly all Chevy car models from 1999-present. Some great, most fair, and one had to be towed away.

Conclusion and Personal Boycott
So, even with the good and the bad, today's testimony prompts, once again, for me to declare, "Shame on you GM". And in protest, I will avoid renting your vehicles if at all possible. The fires occurred weeks later and can happen to a regular gasser on impact.

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered (to borrow the Motown lyrics)...

RH77
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Old 01-01-2012, 06:43 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Well its been a while since the announcement and on Dec 6th only
Gm reported that just 33 of the more than 6500 Volt owners had inquired about the loaners and only a few had taken them up on it. The expansion to buying back volt also got a few (my guess is mostly CA folks unhappy the current one does not get HOV access).

The AP report on it stated
"In an exclusive interview, CEO Dan Akerson insisted that the cars are safe but said the company will purchase the Volts because it wants to keep customers happy. ...."

In that sense its a positive thing. Fed the press a bit but in the long run showed the customers that they were willing to go the extra mile.

Looking at it a different way, if 33/6000 inquired or took them up on the offer that is 99.5% were so happy with the car they did not want a loaner or to return the car. How many other cars have people that happy with it?
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Old 01-02-2012, 02:39 AM   #10 (permalink)
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If the numbers are accurate, I applaud Volt owners for their tenacity. It was looking grim for the distant observer to maintain confidence in the the brand to defend its high-FE offering, and/or owners to remain calm; however...

To the majority of Volt owners Continent-wide, I raise my New Year's glass in a toast of gratitude for remaining steady.



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