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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid