News / USA

NHTSA Opens Probe into Chevrolet Volt Fire

Kane Farabaugh

Federal safety officials are looking into battery-related fires in General Motors' new electric-powered Chevrolet Volt automobile.  The fires occurred after the officials crash-tested the vehicle. 

One of the first owners of the Chevrolet Volt in the Midwest state of Illinois was Cars.com, which purchased the new, $40,000 electric car to test its performance.

“We were among the first buyers in the country even though Chicago is not a launch market, and we drove them through the winter, tested them out, and actually had them through the summer as well, and gotten a pretty good feel for them," he said.

Cars.com executive editor Joe Wiesenfelder says the company also has the distinction of being one of the first owners to crash the Volt. “There was a lot of interest around that.  It was one of the first airbag deployments in a Volt out on the road, so we are pioneers in that regard," he said.

Fully repaired, the car was back on the road several weeks later.  Wiesenfelder says there have not been any problems since.

But that is not the case with a Chevrolet Volt crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “The Volt that was crashed by NHSTA led to a five-star crash rating.  It was three weeks later that the battery caught fire," he said.

Wiesenfelder says GM believes the solution to the problem is to discharge the lithium-ion battery after a collision.  But he says it's been hard to learn more about the extent of the problem. “NHTSA also is not discussing it.  We asked today, “Are they also testing batteries from other cars like the [Nissan] Leaf,” they will not say, they will not say," he said.

The lack of information is fueling speculation about the safety of battery-powered vehicles.  Wiesenfelder says that uncertainty could hurt the already underperforming sales of the Chevrolet Volt.

“You hear “fire” and “car” of course, that  is bad, but this testing could prove anything.  We are not going to jump to conclusions on safety or lack of safety.  But on the other hand, GM is trying to do everything right, trying to look good, saying they are a different company than they used to be, but by doing that, offering loaner cars and offering to buy the cars back, they actually I think make it seem like a larger problem than it might be," he said.

Wiesenfelder points out there is no evidence to suggest the Volt, or any current electric powered vehicle, is any less safe than one powered by a combustion engine.  Argonne National Laboratory’s Transportation Research Director Don Hillebrand agrees. “Electrics in general tend to be [safer], have fewer failure modes than combustion [engine] or other vehicles," he said.

Some of the chemistry in the battery the Volt uses was invented at Argonne, and Hillebrand’s team is currently testing the vehicle’s fuel efficiency.  He would not comment directly about the NHTSA investigation, but says the end result could ultimately help make the Volt a better vehicle.

“I do not test safety of vehicles, but we test other aspects of vehicles and we test them to find out, what are they going to do when you push them to the edge, and we need to know that, that is how you make them better," he said.

General Motors has sold about 6,000 Chevrolet Volts this year.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid