TTAC has received the following protocol, developed by GM in the wake of the June Volt fire at a NHTSA facility in Wisconsin, from a GM source and has confirmed its legitimacy with a second GM source. Though the procedure may be refined based on the findings of NHTSA’s latest round of tests, it gives a good picture of what GM currently does to ensure the safety of Volt driver and passengers as well as rescue workers, towing company workers and salvage yards. And, I have to say, it puts some of my fears about this safety scare to rest. It hadn’t occurred to me that GM’s Onstar system could provide opportunities to respond to crashes in real time, and apparently the system provides a wide variety of data with which GM’s “corporate SWAT team” can tailor its response to any Volt crash event. Hit the jump for the full procedure.
I caught hell from a number of TTAC’s Best and Brightest five days ago, when I blogged about the Chevrolet Volt fire at a NHTSA facility but failed to initially note GM’s response. At the time, GM’s Greg Martin said
GM has safety procedures for handling the Volt and its battery after an accident. Had those been followed, there wouldn’t have been a fire.
At the time, a number of readers accused me of bias for not including Martin’s response at first. Eventually I conceded that this was some worthwhile perspective for the story, but I cautioned that it only represented the opinion of one GM employee. Whether or not NHTSA actually followed those procedures remained an open question… until now. Automotive News [sub] is reporting that NHTSA couldn’t possibly have followed those procedures, nor indeed could anyone else, for the simple reason that GM failed to share them with anybody. So not only is the NHTSA fire being blamed on the fact that government regulators were not given the necessary safety procedures, but it turns out that rescue workers, salvage yards, towing companies and the like were not taught how to discharge the Volt’s battery either. In other words, this NHTSA crash was an important eye-opener for the Volt team.
The Chevy Volt fire rumors started early this week, when the utility company Duke Energy told its customers to stop using their Chevy Volt home chargers after an October 30 fire. At last word, NHTSA said that
No conclusions have yet been reached regarding the cause of the fire. We are continuing to monitor the situation.
But it seems that the investigation is coming home, as Bloomberg just reported that a Chevy Volt caught fire at a NHTSA facility,
shortly weeks after being crash tested.
The Volt caught fire while parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center in Wisconsin, three weeks after a side-impact crash test, said an agency official. The official, as well as the three other people familiar with the inquiry, said they couldn’t be named because the investigation isn’t public.
The fire was severe enough to burn vehicles parked near the Volt, the agency official said. Investigators determined the battery was the source of the fire, the official said.
The main tool for the government’s crusade to get one million plug-in cars on the road by 2015 is the “Qualified Plug-In Electric Vehicle Tax Credit,” a credit that returns between $2,500 and $7,500 to purchasers of a qualifying vehicle. To qualify for the minimum $2,500 credit, a vehicle must have a traction battery with a minimum of four kW/h, and the credit adds an additional $417 in credits for every kW/h above the minimum. Why? Well, you might think that it’s because the DOE has done its research and determined that larger battery packs deliver more social benefits… at least until the 16kW/h limit (the exact size of the Chevy Volt’s battery), where the credit tops out at $7,500. But according to new research by Carnegie Mellon’s Jeremy Michalek, that basic assumption doesn’t appear to be true at all. In fact, his latest paper argues that the government would actually be better off subsidizing smaller, not larger, battery packs.
GM tightened its ties with Volt battery cell provider LG this week, announcing a deal to jointly develop next-generation electric vehicles. GM, along with the other Detroit-based OEMs, have been seeking closer ties with their suppliers, and as the JoongAng Daily reports, this deal helps LG at a time when the Korean conglomerate has been struggling
Two of LG’s pillars – LG Electronics and LG Display – are floundering. LG missed the boat on smartphones and persistently-low prices of display panels have plagued LG Display.
LG officials are hoping the EV project will give it momentum.
And though it’s no surprise that GM wants to move into the pure-EV market, its gamble on the extended-electric Volt has backed it into something of rhetorical corner.
Tesla will begin supplying Toyota with components for its electric RAV4 a year earlier than previously planned, reports Bloomberg, a move that will have Toyota paying $100m for the drivetrains rather than the previously-agreed-upon $60m. According to a Tesla SEC filing, the EV specialist firm will supply Toyota with
a validated electric powertrain system, including a battery, charging system, inverter, motor, gearbox and associated software which will be integrated into an electric vehicle version of the Toyota RAV4. Additionally, Tesla will provide TMC with certain services related to the supply of the Tesla Battery and Powertrain.
There’s still no word about how many of these RAV4s is Toyota planning on selling over those two years, or where will they be assembled, but it sounds like Toyota isn’t trying to launch quite the EV offensive that some green car blogs seem to be hoping for. As one analyst puts it to Bloomberg, $100 million “isn’t a huge amount for Toyota, so this allows them, with only modest downside risk, to participate in what Tesla is doing.” That sounds about right…
Capacity, weight and price of the battery are the big challenges facing the electric car. Researchers at Sumitomo have developed a porous, sponge-like metal called “Aluminum-Celmet.” It promises to triple the capacity of lithium-ion batteries. (Read More…)
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When DBM Energy, an unknown German “mailbox company,” announced it would attempt a world record for the longest single-charge EV trip, the reaction from observers and industry insiders was nearly universally dismissive. Even when the drive was completed, and DBM’s electrified Audi A2 completed a 600km (373 miles) journey under observation, the skepticism lingered. Then, when the record-setting A2 burnt in a fire, the mystery deepened. Did the enigmatic battery start the blaze (as, a DBM battery apparently already has in a forklift), or, as DBM suggests, did a jealous German OEM try to kill their miracle battery breakthrough with a convenient arson? That puzzle hasn’t been hashed out, but according to AutoBild, Germany’s Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing) as well as the Ministry of Industry have tested the DBM battery for
extreme climate and air pressure changes, electrical short circuits, overloading or incorrect polarity and to mechanical influences such as vibration, shock and impact
The result? It’s safe! DBM has also made a 454km (282 miles) journey this month in a battery with less capacity than the world record-setting pack. More testing will be done, but it seems that DBM is on to something with its “miracle battery,” and the German automakers may yet be forced to abandon their long-held preference for hydrogen fuel cells.
Thinking about getting an EV? Better move to a balmier state.
“It turns out batteries are like people. They love room temperature,” Bill Wallace, director of Global Battery Systems at GM said at an energy forum at the University of Chicago. He had come under fire, ammunition courtesy of Consumer Reports which said its tests showed the battery’s range of the Chevy Volt would last only 23 to 28 miles in cold weather. (Read More…)
Unimpressed by BYD’s aborting of the pure plug-in EV, Nissan is betting the farm on us plugging in instead of gassing up. A few days ago, Nissan officially introduced the Leaf, the world’s first mass-produced EV in the standard passenger class, seating five. It won’t totally replace the internal combustion engine, at least not at the plant where it is made. (Read More…)
Did you know that the Volt’s most important and priciest ingredient comes from Korea? The Volt battery is made by LG Chem, the battery arm of the Korean company formerly known as Lucky Goldstar. Noises coming from Korea indicate that GM might be building more Volts than thought. How do the Koreans know that? GM ordered more batteries. (Read More…)
Editor’s Note: On Monday, TTAC’s Martin Schwoerer wrote about a planned record-breaking non-stop run of 600 KMs, from Munich to Berlin, with a car that was equipped with a “revolutionary” electric battery system. Something smells funny, he said, and vowed to donate 100 Euros in case the drive was completed. Well, it was. So, how does it feel to have pie on your face?
How about Vegetarians Against the klan? Or maybe the Tugg Speedman Foundation? No, there are probably better organisations to give my money to. Guess I’ll ask the Best & Brightest… (Read More…)
Volvo, now in the hands of China’s Geely, may revolutionize the way electric and hybrid cars are built. Currently, you have to shove a big honking battery into an electric car, and a simple honking battery into a hybrid. This adds weight, and obesity is a killer when in come to mileage. Volvo, working with the Imperial College in London has a wild idea: Why not dispense with the big honking battery and use the whole auto body to store electricity. Say what? (Read More…)
Recently, Nissan claimed that their Leaf will have a battery production cost of $375/kWh. A what? Anyway, this was:
- Surprising as battery costs for an electric cars were forecast to be between $400 – $700/kWh.
- Meaningless, as long as people thing in lease rate /month and MPG (and conveniently forget it.
But Tesla’s founding father didn’t like that at all. (Read More…)
What about battery production? It’s one of the most popular criticisms of the green halo surrounding battery-electric vehicles, and one that’s widely circulated in anti-EV circles. Battery production, it is argued, requires the mining, transportation and processing of minerals which puts EVs at an environmental disadvantage compared to ICE vehicles. Needless to say, quantifying the impacts of ICE and electric drivetrain production is extremely difficult, due to the complexity and global supply chains required to produce both (not to mention the inherent difficulty of quantifying environmental impacts). But a study by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology [via Green Car Congress] took on just that question, and indicates that
the impact of a Li-ion battery used in BEVs for transport service is relatively small. In contrast, it is the operation phase that remains the dominant contributor to the environmental burden caused by transport service as long as the electricity for the BEV is not produced by renewable hydropower.