Back to the drawing board for Chevrolet as a major set back for the Chevrolet Volt emerges. The Chevrolet Volt is now being investigated for the main battery to catch on fire after an auto accident. The lithium-ion batteries that were designed to hold the electricity to power the 111 kW (149-hp) electric motor capable of pushing out 273 foot-pounds of torque are now being reported to smoke, spark and / or catch on fire. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) is working with GM, the auto maker for Chevrolet, in this matter to make sure that they are in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards.

NHTSA released this statement about the matter,” This past May, NHTSA crashed a Chevy Volt in an NCAP test designed to measure the vehicle’s ability to protect occupants from injury in a side collision. During that test, the vehicle’s battery was damaged and the coolant line was ruptured. When a fire involving the test vehicle occurred more than three weeks after it was crashed, the agency concluded that the damage to the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery during the crash test led to the fire. Since that fire incident, NHTSA has taken a number of steps to gather additional information about the potential for fire in electric vehicles involved in a crash, including working with the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense — in close coordination with experts from General Motors — to complete rigorous tests of the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries.”.

It appears that soon after an auto accident, the Chevrolet Volt may catch on fire and even cause fire damage to vehicles around it, possibly in the towing storage area or the auto body repair shop it is taken to. In fact, if you own a Chevrolet Volt and are involved in an auto accident, it is advised that you exit the vehicle safely and wait for the emergency vehicles to arrive at a safe distance from the vehicle. It is also recommended to keep a collision damaged Volt outside and not in an enclosed area or garage. This apparent safety defect should be part of the learning curve for these new electric cars that are hitting the market like the Nissan Leaf and the upcoming Mitsubishi MiEV that’s scheduled to hit the auto market in the early 2012 year and Ford Focus Electric in late 2012.

Chevrolet Volt on left, on right Nissan Volt, Mitsubishi MiEV, and Ford Focus Electric by Guy’s Automotive in Tampa Florida

With President Barack Obama’s plan for putting 1 million vehicles in operation on our roads by 2015 reducing America’s dependency on foreign oil, electric cars may become a important transportation milestone for us Americans. Electric car sales for Chevrolet over 6,000 cars and Nissan is over 8,000 cars. Obviously we can not ignore that electric cars are here and we must learn from the early safety issues to help prevent tragedies.

Safety needs to be a priority for electric cars with lithium-ion batteries. Battery fires from lithium-ion batteries can reach temperatures of 1,100 degrees and lithium-metal battery fires can reach over 4,000 degrees. Spontaneous combustion can occur with these batteries even days after an auto accident so it is imperative that auto repair shops, collision repair shops and towing yards follow proper discharge procedures and safety measures when handling these new electric automobiles of the new millennia.

By Guy’s Automotive

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