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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
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 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.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid