QUESTION- How Do You All Feel About The Volt Situation?

volt-hero

I spent Thursday chasing down information on the situation with Volt’s battery pack.  In case you haven’t heard, it can catch on fire from one to three weeks after the side impact test that simulates hitting a pole or tree (not the standard test that simulates a car-on-car T-bone).  Also, seems that after said pole is struck, the car is flipped on it’s roof to simulate a rollover.

So reply below.  Is it being overblown?  If you own one (talking to you Tailfin), do you feel inherently unsafe?  Is GM responding to the situation well?  I’m curious to hear how you all feel about it.

13 Comments

  1. CalgaryGuy says:

    “GM announces Enhancements to Chevrolet Volt” (Jan 5, 2012). GM’s press release offers a fair summary of the problem. My only gripe is the word “enhancement” in the headline. What a terrible word choice. (How is your damaged car not catching fire an “enhancement”?)

    Textbook crisis management by GM with (almost) no sugar-coating.

    http://www.gm.com/content/gmcom/home/article.content_pages_news_us_en_2012_jan_0105_volt.gm.html

  2. kenwenzel says:

    Once again the US media has found something else to mis report. It is unfortunate that the freedom of the press has stretched itself to the freedom to report partial facts as full blown news. It was days after seeing the first report that I found out the battery didn’t catch fire during the wreck, but days afterward. If ignorance is bliss there are a bunch of happy campers in the large “professional” news organizations. Where’t my hat?

    • TV says:

      Hope to get it to you by Christmas, they are in a locked cabinet and my cheap boss doesn’t want to call a locksmith. Insult to injury, I think he’s the one that lost the key…

  3. crash says:

    Much like Toyota of 2010 – this is an overreaction.

  4. tailfin61 says:

    GM did contact me and offered a loaner, whatever I wanted, but I will keep my Volt. I have no concern what so ever and feel perfectly safe. The car has the top crash test rating from the NHTSA’s own testing as well as the IIHS; which reaffirmed that rating this week. The European testing agency also has given it a top score.

    This is the situation as I understand it . All lithium-ion batteries need a cooling system. GM chose a liquid cooling system vs. an air cooled system like Nissan chose for the leaf. This is why the leaf is not a part of the investigation. This liquid cooling system is internal to the battery pack. In the original crash test in May, not only was the battery pack damaged, but also the cooling system. This in itself is not the issue as the coolant in a liquid state is not flammable. Over the next three weeks the liquid coolant dried and crystalized. In that state, it is flammable. Because the battery still retained its charge, the result was fire.

    The tests done in November were very different. NHTSA did not recrash any Volts. The used just the battery packs and they intentionally breached the battery and coolant system to try and replicate the fire. Of the three tested, one had no issue, one sparked when the flipped it over, and the third eventually did catch fire a week later.

    IMO, the real world scenarios that could possibly result in a post crash fire are very remote. Due to the placement of the battery pack, the type of crash that could damage the pack that severely would, in all likelihood, leave the vehicle a total loss. A typical fender bender or any crash where the car remains driveable would not have a breached battery pack. In fact, no other crashed Volt, whether done through agency testing or in the real world have caught fire. Through the Facebook owners group I know of at least 3 that have been totalled. The first fire would have been prevented if the battery had been discharged. NHTSA drained the gas tank, but not the battery. GM is notified, through OnStar, of any crash and is dispatching an engineer within 48 hours to ensure that the battery is discharged. This is their recommended post crash safety protocol.

    GM is committed to doing the right thing and keeping owners happy. Any enhancements developed will be retrofitted to vehicles. Love my Volt.

  5. CalgaryGuy says:

    I wouldn’t normally be concerned, but this happened under test conditions on site at the NHTSA (in May). So it’s clearly not “user error”. And the NHTSA replicated the problem — although they waited until November to do so.

    The NHTSA say they will issue a recall if there is “an unreasonable risk to safety”. So let’s say I get my Volt back from the body-shop after an accident. And then let’s assume that the Volt acts the same as it did in the lab. Then it WILL spontaneously set fire to my garage and burn my house down.

    I’d say that’s “an unreasonable risk to safety”! But why no recall? Where is the aggressive investigating NHTSA of the “runaway Prius” fiasco?

    Here’s what’s going on. The NHTSA says it met with people from the “Department of Energy” and the “Department of National Defence”.

    DOE? National Defence?!

    The press release continues: “NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles have incredible potential to save consumers money at the pump, help protect the environment, create jobs, and strengthen national security by reducing our dependence on oil.”

    Thanks NHTSA. Your message was cleverly coded, but we understand.

    • TV says:

      Hey wait a minute… you’re in Calgary. You guys pay attention to our governmental agencies? I can assure you most Americans don’t even know who your PM is let alone your agencies….

      • CalgaryGuy says:

        Canada uses the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star crash tests as if they were our own. Our CAFC (Company Average Fuel Consumption) is harmonized with the US CAFE standard (also published by NHTSA).

        Whenever we can harmonize standards on both sides of the border the resulting market is about 10% bigger than the US alone. That means cost savings (and/or profit) for everyone.

        • TV says:

          Huh! Didn’t know that. It sure makes sense. You Canadians sure are smart. I suppose we just don’t have anyone to copy.

  6. intotheoh says:

    Agreed. It’s overblown. They should do a study about that flammable liquid stored under your butt in most cars called gasoline that could ignite at ANY TIME! Seriously though, I’m glad GM is doing right by their volt customers and offering rentals, or returns to those who don’t feel safe.

    On a separate note, we’re going on to year two of the volt model year. I don’t suppose battery technology has evolved enough yet to add a rear seat in the middle?

  7. motorstreet says:

    I think this is hugely overblown. The biggest problem with this story is that the cars that caught on fire didn’t have their batteries deactivated, which GM requires after a crash. These Volt’s never would have caught on fire if their batteries had been deactivated and they never would have caught on fire in a real world crash because the batteries would have been deactivated. I think GM’s first response was very good, they decided to have a GM employee deactivate the Volt’s battery after a crash. Offering a loaner to Volt owners was also a good idea, but I think the buy-back option just makes the Volt look worse and I would be surprised if even a handful of owners actually sell back their cars. If I owned a Volt I wouldn’t feel at risk at all, because I’m not worried about still being stuck in the car if it catches on fire 1 to 3 weeks after the crash.