By on December 7, 2011

GM is close to having a fix for the Volt battery that had a tendency to go up in flames after a crash. Meanwhile in Washington, senators are getting the grill ready.

Reuter’s Detroit bureau reports that repairs under consideration involve laminating circuitry in the battery pack, a reinforced case for the battery, and leakproofing the coolant system.

The good part is that the fix could be performed at GM dealerships, which, says Reuters, “could spare the automaker the cost and reputation damage from a more involved safety recall.” In other words, GM would not have to take the car back. Currently, Volt customers drive around with loaners while their Volts remain parked.

Reuters heard the solution before GM senior management did. Management will be shown the fix by the end of the week. The cost is said to be less than $9 million for GM, or about $1,000 per Volt. If NHTSA regulators want a more involved solution, it will be more expensive.

GM spokesman Rob Peterson had not heard of the fix: “To the best of my knowledge, we’re not discussing exact solutions at this point,” he told Reuters.

While GM is dousing the flames, DC is preparing a grilling.

The regulatory subcommittee of the House Oversight panel wants to hold a hearing next month. It wants to know why it took nearly six months for the matter to become public and whether the committee should have been advised. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a probe of the Volt’s battery pack last month.

 

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54 Comments on “Volt’s Burning Desire: The Fix Is In. Is It Really?...”


  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    Prices are going down it seems

    http://www.cars.com/for-sale/new/chevrolet/volt/_/N-ma8Zfh1Zr0xZm5d?mkId=20053&mdId=35025&rd=100000&zc=02345&PMmt=1-1-0&stkTypId=28880&rpp=50&feedSegId=28705&searchSource=SORT&crSrtFlds=stkTypId-feedSegId-mkId-mdId&pgId=2102&sf1Nm=price&sf1Dir=ASC&sf2Nm=location&sf2Dir=ASC

    • 0 avatar
      axual

      If you read the fine print, these prices include $11,000 in government incentives, the Federal $7500 and the Pennsylvania $3500 tax credit. Prices are not going down.

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        Actually. If you read some of the fine print these cars are being sold as used vehicles. Dealers bought the car, took the taxpayer subsidies/rebates for their own, attempt to resell the “used” car at some price above the net price, pocket the difference.
        The simple reality is that this car is TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE and the market is beginning to prove that. 2012 is going to be a tough year for the GM propagandists….

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        It’s nice to see PA leaders being so generous with taxpayer money. Does the Volt somehow save 3500 dollars in oil or other commodities? This is a state that has trouble paying real bills and has a 29 Billion dollar budget. Harrisburg just declared bankruptcy last week.

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        “It’s nice to see PA leaders being so generous with taxpayer money”

        What is PA known for? COAL! Coal is used to make electricity, the more volts on the road the more coal from PA.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      The GM troll got owned.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Hmmm, call it $29K and take off the $7500 Government bait money and at $22K,
    the Volt starts to sound like a better deal.

    Or maybe not:
    http://www.cars.com/for-sale/new/chevrolet/cruze/ltz/_/N-ma8Zfh1Zr0yZissZm5d?prMx=23000&sf1Dir=DESC&prMn=0&mkId=20053&mdId=35026&rd=500&zc=02345&PMmt=1-1-0&stkTypId=28880&sf2Dir=ASC&sf1Nm=price&sf2Nm=location&rpp=50&feedSegId=28705&searchSource=GN_REFINEMENT&crSrtFlds=stkTypId-feedSegId-mkId-mdId-pseudoPrice-trId&pgId=2102&trId=24364

  • avatar
    geozinger

    “GM is close to having a fix for the Volt battery that had a tendency to go up in flames after a crash”

    What tendency? There’s only been one reported fire. That apparently took 21 days to start. At the NHTSA facility.

    The other fires were battery packs being tested. Out of the car.

    Please cite more fires from actual cars.

    • 0 avatar
      axual

      Once again … people are jumping to conclusions. There has never been a Volt catch on fire. As noted by you, this fire happened only after a severe test accident and occurred because the batteries were not discharged or drained (coolant had leaked due to the test accident).

      GM however must defend against the uninformed. However in the case, making the battery pack more robust is a good idea, and GM did take their time in providing instructions to owners and others of the potential hazard and what to do in the event of an accident that impacts the battery pack.

      • 0 avatar

        axual,

        Yes, one Volt did indeed catch on fire. There have been three reported fires involving Volt cars, two house fires and the crash-tested Volt. The house fires most likely did not start with the Volt. The crash tested Volt indeed caught on fire, burning nearby vehicles, three weeks after a side impact into a pole at 20mph and a subsequent rollover. Two additional Volt batteries out of three that were damaged, had their coolant lines cut and inverted to replicate the conditions of the crash-tested Volt also either sparked or caught fire.

        Those are the facts. From reports I read today, apparently the leaking coolant caused the sparking. As it says in the post, when they upgrade the Volt batteries, in addition to physically reinforcing the batteries GM will be laminating or encapsulating the electronics and making the coolant lines more robust.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Does anyone really believe that two of the very first Volts delivered to the public were randomly incinerated in house fires? How many house fires are there where you live? How many Volts were in use at the beginning of November? Believing this fairy tale takes gullibility to the sort of place where tragic mistakes become inevitable.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        In the only house fire Volt I’m aware of it was revealed and posted here on TTAC:

        1) The guy was an electric car fanatic, who had built his own cars

        2) His home built electric car was also in the garage

        3) His home built electric car was also in the garage connected to his home built electrical charger

        4) His Volt and his home built electric charger were on the same circuit and charging away at the same time.

        5) I believe he installed the Volt charger himself.

        6) He had recently modified his home built electrical charger to either support more voltage or charge faster (I can’t remember) which, outlined his modifications on his blog, of which anyone with electrical sense looked at and went, “wow, that’s dangerous,” and he noted his own warning of, “don’t try this at home.”

        A short period of time after above point 4 modification (days or weeks) said garage burned to ground. The Volt was quickly dismissed by the fire department, the owner, investigators, and GM as being the source.

        Again – do some digging, you’ll find the info. I wasn’t aware of a second house fire – I’d have to see a link.

        On the NHTSA fire it is very much worth noting it was three weeks after the crash test and the NHTSA did not follow documented post crash power down procedures before storing the crashed Volt.

        Right now there is about as much evidence to support flaming Volts of death as computers go crazy and create flaming Toyota products of death.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You really should have done a search for the second Volt house fire. Sure, the sample is small, but so is the population of Volts. Ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        So the Volt is GM’s Pinto. Not a big deal. Not all Pintos ignited after a crash. Not all Volts self-ignite and immolate themselves and their surroundings.

        EV did not sell all that well in the US. And while the fires involving the Volt haven’t helped sales, there will always be a (small) contingent of individuals who will choose to buy a Volt or any other EV.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        To the best of my recollection, neither fire started with the Volt itself.

        In each case, new wiring had been run to charge the car. I’d be more suspicious of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      There was also no unintended acceleration in Toyotas… The media can’t be bothered with such trivial facts these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Lokki

        Thinkin -

        You’re not thinkin. You’re sulking. What may or may not have happened with Toyotas has nothing to do with the facts about the Volt.

        The accusation that Toyota has problems does not change the fact that GM is having problems with the Volt.

    • 0 avatar

      I called up the Jason Lewis show about this. These conservative whackos are so busy bashing the government about the subsidies given to the Volt that they latched onto this very small story and try to blow it up (no pun intended). Meanwhile, THE TRUTH of the matter is that the Volt’s battery is only exploding if the car is damaged and it’s left in a junkyard without the battery having been properly discharged or disconnected. This is a TRAINING ISSUE. The Fire Departments don’t know what to do with these things after an accident, so electric cars don’t get proper attention. They haven’t put together a plan to secure them the same way we secure an internal combustion vehicle after a crash.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m sure that you would consider me a conservative whacko and I’ve been scrupulous to cover the Volt related fire fairly and accurately. While it’s true that conservatives aren’t fond of the Volt (or more accurately the tax rebates involved and the perception, accurate or not, that the car was developed to curry favor with the Obama administration), in every case that I know of where a conservative or libertarian site got the story wrong and I contacted them, they corrected it. If you want, I can provide links with the corrections.

        I do know that the Associated Press, not known as conservative whackos, didn’t get the story right, saying that 3 additional Volts that were crash tested burned, when those tests were on battery packs alone, trying to duplicate the conditions of the burned Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      You really should have done a search for the second Volt house fire. Sure, the sample is small, but so is the population of Volts. Ridiculous.

      Are you referring to the fire in NC?

      http://www.freep.com/article/20111201/BUSINESS0101/111201066/House-fire-investigators-say-Chevy-Volt-charger-not-blame-North-Carolina-blaze

      “Investigators in Iredell County, N.C., are still sifting the ashes of a house fire on Oct. 30 that burned a garage where a Chevrolet Volt’s battery was being charged, but local utilities say it appears neither the plug-in car nor its plugged-in charger was to blame.”

      Or was that just a cover-up?

  • avatar

    Mountain out of an anthill.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      “Mountain out of an anthill”

      That’s Darrell Issa’s specialty.

      • 0 avatar

        Right, because deliberately letting guns flow into Mexico, resulting in the documented killing of 200 Mexicans and one US border agent is just an anthill.

      • 0 avatar

        In fairness, America sells 1000 more times than that in guns on it’s own streets and the result is far, far more deaths/murders per year.

        Mexico has roughly 113 million people. 200 is peanuts!

      • 0 avatar
        damikco

        Maybe we should start blaming the gun nuts.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Aren`t we always told “guns don`t kill people, people kill people”.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        bigtruckseries: In fairness, America sells 1000 more times than that in guns on it’s own streets and the result is far, far more deaths/murders per year.

        Might help to do some research on this subject before posting. If nothing else, you would realize that these figures need to be adjusted for differences in population, as the United States has three times as many people as Mexico. A raw number of homicides is meaningless, as it doesn’t account for a difference in population.

        In Mexico there were 12 homicides (excluding those that are classified as a justifiable homicide) per 100,000 residents in 2009.

        That same year in the United States, there were 5 homicides per 100,000 residents. And that represented an 8.1 percent DECREASE from the United States murder rate in 2008.

        And Mexico doesn’t even have the highest murder rate in either Central America or South America. Mexico’s homicide rate is LOWER than the homicide rate of Brazil and Columbia.

        For that matter, here in the United States, as more states have loosened restrictions on concealed carry permits and the assault weapon ban was allowed to expire, the overall crime rate has dropped to half of what it was in 1991, and the murder rate is now down to the level it was at in 1964. At this point, only the blessedly ignorant or hopelessly stupid believe that banning hand guns or other guns is effective. Of course, some people still support Prohibition and the 55 mph speed limit, too…

        Apparently, those dumb conservatives and “gun nuts” who said that the “more guns equals more crime” belief is false were correct. Oops!

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    Yeah, well anytime our big fat government is joined at the hip with a big company, it gets a little suspicious:
    http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2011/12/chevrolet-volt-battery-issues-growing-safety-findings-may-have-been-suppressed.html
    Crony socialism at its best, perhaps.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Yeah, kinda like inviting the heads of all the major fossil fuel companies to the White House to draft the nation’s energy policy.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Which ended up including lots of incentives for the development of alternative energy.

        Given that, in the real world, most people use fossil fuels, and will continue to do for the foreseeable future, it would have been stupid NOT to have invited these companies to any discussion on energy policy.

  • avatar

    It’s troubling how bad some of the reporting has been on this topic. I’m not just talking about blogs. The Associated Press, AP, confused the tests of the battery packs with actual crash testing of cars.

    I’ll be honest and say that I’ve hyped this story a bit for the sake of getting traffic at Cars In Depth but I’ve been careful to keep everything factual. Unfortunately, a number of the sites that linked to my posts got it wrong. To their credit, the sites that I contacted made corrections, but a lot of folks, even in the mainstream media, are getting important parts of this story wrong.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “two house fires and the crash-tested Volt. The house fires most likely did not start with the Volt.”

    Kind of pointless to even bring that up as I have never read anything that said their was even so much as a remote chance that the Volt caused either fire. Just the opposite.

    So I agree w/axual that in the real world their hasn’t been one fire yet attributed to a Volt. But I’m certainly not against anything they can do to make the car even safer than it already is.

  • avatar

    Why couldn’t GM just make an honest to goodness hybrid like the Prius. The Volt is a solution nobody asked for.

    • 0 avatar
      blowfish

      volt is a hybrid, it has battery with an engine to extend the mileage.
      A true EV perhaps could run into issues as charging stations are not ready or non exist at the moment.
      A 110 v charging at home will take much longer time.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      And the plugin Prius is what exactly? Toyota thinks there is some room for this type of vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        If the gas motor has more power than the electric motor(s), it’s a hybrid.

        If the electric motor(s) have more power than the gas motor, it’s an range-extended EV.

        The driving dynamics are quite different between the two, an actual electric drivetrain feels like a modern turbodiesel except that it’s silent and there’s no shifts to reduce RPMs.

        Frankly, I wish they put a bigger electric motor in and allowed for multiple drive modes that differed in the accelerator pedal-to-power mapping. 150-200KW with 350-450lb/ft of torque would be even nicer, as would a 6.6KW charger.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        People were modifying Prius cars to plug in capability already, GM and Toyota are following their lead.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Dr.,

        That sounds rather like the Accord hybrid, which was a V6 and was intended as a performance-enhanced car. Nobody bought them. That would probably be the fate of a performance electric, at least until the price comes way down.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        It sounds nothing at all like the Accord hybrid, which had all of 16 horsepower on the electric side of the drivetrain.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Why couldn’t GM just make an honest to goodness hybrid like the Prius. The Volt is a solution nobody asked for.
      They’ve announced a plug-in hybrid version of the Cruze, so they’re headed in that direction.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Why couldn’t GM just make an honest to goodness hybrid like the Prius. The Volt is a solution nobody asked for.”

    Jay Leno has put 10K miles on his Volt and is still running around with the same gas that was in it when he picked it up from the dealership. Try doing that with a Prius. True it sometimes functions like a hybrid but then it also functions like pure EV. Something the Prius never does.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      Interesting. So when he does decide to take it on a longer trip, he goes 32 miles on the electric, and then the varnish in the tank clogs the fuel injectors?

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Carlson Fan,

      Sure. But you the Prius moves off the lot for $23K, which is something the Volt never does.

      TTAC carried an article on Toyota’s PHV Prius announcement. The Toyota folks mentioned that the cars are irrelevant unless they are competitive. It’s too true. And the PHV Prius is expensive, too, but at least it’s not as expensive…

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My claims about the Leaf’s air cooled system being superior are now vindicated.

    This article makes note of that detail about the Leaf, and Ackerson’s fearmongering by noting that lots of other hybrid cars have liquid-cooled batteries.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Sure. But you the Prius moves off the lot for $23K, which is something the Volt never does”

    You won’t get a Prius optioned out like a standard Volt anywhere near 23K. And the driving experience between the two is an apples to oranges comparison. Regardless, no matter how you drive it your still tied to a gas pump with a Prius. Is the extra cost of a car like the Volt worth it to have that freedom? 6k people plus have said yes. Many former or current Prius owners.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “My claims about the Leaf’s air cooled system being superior are now vindicated.”

    Not really. The reason for liquid cooling the battery was to enhance battery performance long term. We have a pretty good number on what these cars will do on battery power when new, lets wait 5 years and see what happens. If the Volt is still providing somewhere around 40 miles on electric and a Leaf can’t break 50, then I’d say it was a good move on GM’s part. If not, then you can tell me to eat crow!…LOL

  • avatar
    damikco

    Im new to this site and i can see that the Anti-GM crowd are grasping for straws to discredit GM.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      GM discredits themselves when episodes like this happen.

      As an engineer, it seems like very convenient timing to have found the cause of this problem so quickly, just before the Congressional Inquisition begins.

      The Volt took years to develop, and they figured out this problem in a couple of weeks. Impressive, but not convincing.

  • avatar
    raven1462

    While I appreciate the work and reporting done here and have gotten most of my Volt updates that I trust from here, I must say the wording of some things leaves a little to be desired. For instance, if I new nothing about what is going on with the Volt and happened to read a sentence that the Volt “had a tendency to go up in flames after a crash” I would think they were burning up like someone sneezed on the Hindenburg. It’s amazing what the leaving out of one little word will do… but I guess “had a tendency to go up in flames days after a crash” is not as sensational. Though not as obvious but still as annoying is sentences like this: “Currently, Volt customers drive around with loaners while their Volts remain parked.” Again, true for the 30-40 out of 6000 Volt owners that made that choice. But to state something that is not the norm yet makes it seem like all Volt owners are driving loaners is a little misleading. Now, granted, the readership of this fine site generally knows better so I am not overly worried but if someone was only getting their info from here and otherwise lived in a box, that would not be great. This from a conservative, supposedly Volt hating Volt driver. But thanks to TTAC once I wade through the hype I now know: 1)If I get in an accident, don’t have them tow the car back to my garage and let it sit there. Check. 2)Don’t let any yahoo off the street (including myself) install the charger, and make sure it is inspected afterward. Check. 3)Continue to enjoy driving my flaming Volt of doom (also a good name for a rock band). Check. Of course I could get that same info from the Detroit News locally but then I wouldn’t get the snarky comments and where is the fun in that…

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    Who needs to grasp at straws to discredit GM? This outfit has littered the landscape with mediocre products for decades, dropped market share from 50% to under 20%, and recently needed a massive government bailout just to stay in business. Now they stupidly pin their reputation on a “green”, coal-powered car that seems to have safety issues and would be recalled if it was a Toyota.


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