NHTSA has closed their investigation into the Chevrolet Volt’s fire risk, stating that the agency “does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.”
NHTSA began the investigation in November after a Volt caught on fire following a crash test. Starting in February, GM will modify the Volt’s battery pack structure by reinforcing the steel surrounding the battery and adding a sensor that can monitor coolant leaks (as shown in the diagram above). Leaking coolant and a punctured battery pack were identified as the culprits. The text of NHTSA’s press release is below.
PRESS RELEASE: NHTSA Statement on Conclusion of Chevy Volt Investigation
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the following statement today regarding the conclusion of its safety defect investigation into the post-crash fire risk of Chevy Volts (PE11037):
Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its safety defect investigation into the potential risk of fire in Chevy Volts that have been involved in a serious crash. Opened on November 25, the agency’s investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.
NHTSA remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle. NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers. However, as the reports released in conjunction with the closure of the investigation today indicate, fires following NHTSA crash tests of the vehicle and its battery components—and the innovative nature of this emerging technology—led the agency to take the unusual step of opening a safety defect investigation in the absence of data from real-world incidents.
Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. Generally all vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. However, electric vehicles have specific attributes that should be made clear to consumers, the emergency response community, and tow truck operators and storage facilities. Recognizing these considerations, NHTSA has developed interim guidance—with the assistance of the National Fire Protection Association, the Department of Energy, and others—to increase awareness and identify appropriate safety measures for these groups. The agency expects this guidance will help inform the ongoing work by NFPA, DOE, and vehicle manufacturers to educate the emergency response community, law enforcement officers, and others about electric vehicles.
For additional information on the Volt investigation and others, visit www.SaferCar.gov.