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GM is looking to pull in all 8,000 Volts off the road as well as the 4,400 for sale

General Motors (GM) is launching a customer service campaign, which is similar to a recall, on 8,000 Chevrolet Volts running on U.S. roads in an effort to address possible battery fire issues.

In May 2011, Chevrolet's plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (EV), the Volt, caught fire three weeks after a side-impact crash test conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Volt was parked in a NHTSA testing facility in Wisconsin. The fire provoked an investigation into the safety of lithium batteries.

Later in November 2011, NHTSA conducted three more side-impact crash tests on three separate Volts. Two out of three ended up sparking or catching fire while the third remained normal.

GM took action right away, saying it will make any changes necessary to keep drivers safe. The automaker even offered loaner vehicles to Volt drivers that didn't feel safe in their vehicles, and said it'd buy Volts back from owners that requested to sell.

Now, GM is advising Volt owners to bring their EVs to the dealerships for a customer service campaign, which is like a recall but without the bad publicity attached. There are currently 8,000 Volts on U.S. roads and another 4,400 in showrooms for sale.

Dealers will address the battery issues by adding steel to the plate that protects the EV's T-shaped, 400-pound battery. This will prevent penetration into the battery in case of an auto accident, which will ultimately stop coolant from leaking. It will also evenly distribute the force of a crash.

NHTSA already tested Volts with the new added steel around the battery in December, and found that it was the right fix for the problem. However, it will continue to monitor the car for another week to make sure that it doesn't catch fire later on like the Volt back in May managed to do.

"The preliminary results of the crash test indicate the remedy proposed by General Motors today should address the issue," said NHTSA.

"We have tested the Volt's battery systems through [the equivalent of] 25 years of operation," said Mary Barra, GM's vice president for global product development. "We're taking these steps to provide peace of mind to our customers."

Sources: InsideBayArea, CNN

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By EddyKilowatt on 1/6/2012 2:02:02 PM , Rating: 2

One last option is to develop a 'Quick disconnect/fuse' feature

That's already there, well maybe not the airbag-trigger part, but there's a master disconnect, and emergency responders know to use it.

The problem is that a disconnected battery is still like a tank of gasoline: stored energy with the potential to cause trouble. The battery needs to be run down flat to be totally safe, which means drawing kilowatts of power from it for awhile, which is obviously not something you want happening automatically right after you've been T-boned by an SUV.

The now-infamous Volt Fire was actually in the battery, not in something connected to it. What's needed is a protocol that says that any battery in an accident above some threshold (probably more severe than airbag-triggering) needs to be discharged under controlled conditions, and then evaluated for hidden damage. Admittedly kind of a hassle, but also something that only a few percent of vehicles will experience in their lifetime.

By mmatis on 1/6/2012 5:19:25 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe they could just use the battery to defibrilate the driver of the Volt, thereby discharging its energy? Put one cable on each ear, yell "Clear!", then throw the switch.
Just a thought...

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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