By on January 20, 2012

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

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22 Comments on “NHTSA Closes Chevrolet Volt Fire Investigation...”

  • avatar

    Awesome. Glad it’s fixed. Now I just need to double my income so I can afford one.

    • 0 avatar


      This nonsense was used by Republicans and Conservatives as a way to attack the Obama administration’s bailout of GM. GM IS ON TOP OF VW RIGHT NOW and it is proof that America’s government can make a wise investment. I wish they’d have helped Chrysler too, but, oh well.

      Make no mistake about it, the Republicans need as much ammo as they can get. THEY HAVE PATHETIC CANDIDATES and a very SLIM chance of winning in November. Nothing they throw at Obama sticks because his constituency doesn’t care.

      The second bailout

      The same people who voted for him last time are gonna vote him back in for another 4 years. Cry about it!

  • avatar

    I love how the NHTSA (a professional governmental organization) uses the manufacturer’s nickname (Chevy)instead of the true name (Chevrolet) throughout their statement.

    • 0 avatar

      There is also a bit of editorial….
      “NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers.”
      What does this have to do with the safety of the battery pack after a collision?

      • 0 avatar

        There is also a bit of editorial

        You’re taking the comment out of context. You need to read the whole thing.

        NHTSA is saying that the agency’s decision to investigate the Volt was not an indication that electric cars are uniquely unsafe. NHTSA thinks that consumers, first responders, etc. should know that electrics have some unique attributes, but that they aren’t any worse than conventional cars.

      • 0 avatar

        @ Pch101

      • 0 avatar

        And the federal government owns a large part of GM, so what’s the harm in saying nice things about electric cars? It’ll make the boss happy.

    • 0 avatar

      WRohrl, that’s because GM, and its subsidiary Chevrolet (Chevy), is a government-owned auto manufacturer. It’s all part of the same family that includes NHTSA.

      Would anyone even think that the NHTSA would publish a different finding about the Volt? They can’t sell more gummint-motors cars if NHTSA finds them unsafe or more dangerous than gasoline-powered vehicles.

      But had this been a Prius or Camry Hybrid that had these fires linked to it, we would never hear the end of it. And the left-wing green-weenie Democrat environmentalist UAW-members would have a field day piling it on Toyota.

      • 0 avatar


        If there was any conspiracy you would not have ever heard about this issue in the first place. Get over it!

        The only soap opera here is the technological challenges of new technology and how it will shape the automotive industry.

      • 0 avatar

        I have to wonder just how many “left-wing green-weenie Democrat environmentalist UAW-members” there are out there, maybe two? That post is hilarious!

  • avatar

    RE above comments: Using the Chevy nickname, and “NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers.”

    The Volt campaign provided major cover for Obama (“I’m not funneling your money to my union buddies, I’m investing in a high-tech future for America!”) The Volt program can not be allowed to go up in flames, especially with congress looking into the fires.

    • 0 avatar

      No matter the reason, it is a good thing when an issue is raised and then when it is found to not be an issue, that a statement is disseminated stating the findings. It SHOULD be mandatory that any outlet that reported the FIRST statement be REQUIRED to give equal space/weight to any followup statement that counteracts the original.

      How many times have we seen sensationalist media coverage of any kind of negative event such as a rape for example, and then when the accused are cleared, there is a small blurb about it on page 12? If you have a headline on page 1 accusing someone, you need to have an equal headline on the same page if that person (or company, or whatever) is found to be innocent of said charge.

      • 0 avatar

        Soooo… let me get this straight. You think:

        – a government agency,
        – under the control of the Obama Administration,
        – issuing a positive finding for a political horse,
        – built by Government Motors,
        – hyped by the Democrat’s media allies,
        – and ridden by Obama…

        is believable.

      • 0 avatar

        let me get this straight

        I don’t see how you possibly could. You’re too busy looking for a conspiracy to even be capable of reading a basic press release.

        Go back and try to read it, slowly. Then put the backstory into context: There was ONE fire, which occurred after a lengthy delay following a crash test. There have been no real world incidents, no one was harmed, and the affected vehicles are being repaired under recall.

        Do you honestly think that this is proof that all cars with batteries on America’s roads are ready to explode? And do you see why a government agency might try to quell the hysteria that some of you are inclined to produce?

        These press releases are issued because of people like you who enjoy panicking over nothing. The irony here is that you’re the audience for it, yet you don’t even understand it.

      • 0 avatar

        Pch101, you are — perhaps deliberately — misdirecting us to the wrong backstory. It’s the politics behind rushing the Volt to market that matters. The effort to reap a bonanza of greenhype via subsidies for a flawed product is rotten to the core.

      • 0 avatar


        The NHTSA conducted one full-vehicle and six isolated pack followup tests (Nov & Dec) after the May Volt fire. The side impact test w/ rollover that resulted in the May fire was duplicated in September with more complete instrumentation, in this test the battery pack was not physically damaged and experienced no problems.

        Tests 1-3 (November) performed side impacts on the bare packs followed by a rotation and long-term storage and observation. The Test 2 pack caught fire less than a week after the test and destroyed the Test 1 pack stored nearby (derp?). The Test 3 pack arced during the rotation following impact, emitting flames and sparks. However, it had no further problems during the long-term storage.

        The Test 4 pack was rotated and modified to leak coolant into the pack electronics. It experienced a temporary heat increase but no fire.

        The Test 5 pack was modified to short the negative battery terminal to the battery chassis and also introduce coolant into the pack electronics. It caught fire less than a week after the test.

        The Test 6 pack suffered a side impact but neither rotation nor shorting. It experienced a temporary heat increase but no fire.

        Per the NHTSA’s final report.

        There have been two real-world fire involving Volts that I’m aware of, both were house fires that occurred in garages where a Volt was being stored (and presumably charging).

        One fire occurred on April 14 2011, destroying the garage but not the attached house. The garage also stored a Suzuki home-built EV conversion and charging station.

        Another home fire occurred in NC on October 30, 2011 with a Volt stored in a the garage.

        From the NHTSA’s final report:
        “Also, the NHTSA investigated two non-crash fire incidents involving Chevrolet Volts. In both cases the vehicles were parked in home garages, and in both cases it was determined that the initial fire did not originate in the Chevrolet Volt.”

  • avatar

    I am shocked that our boy LaHood didn’t use this opportunity to get his mug on the evening news. Bashing auto manufacturers (in an evidence-free environment) to show how tough he is at protecting the American public – isn’t that his job? It used to be, back when the manufacturer in question wasn’t owned by his employer. These days, I guess the right thing for him to do is hide in the office and issue press releases about cell phones.

    Politics as usual.

  • avatar

    Politics as usual.

    From some of the comments above, I would say yes…

  • avatar

    If the fedgov really wants to get electrics to sell, they’re gonna have to drive nat gas prices back up. If nat gas hangs @ $2/mmbtu for several years, nat gas cars are going to be the next wave, not electrics.

    • 0 avatar

      There should be more Natural Gas powered vehicles. The infrastructure is somewhat in place and could be built out relatively easily, and the cost to develop NGV-powered vehicles based on conventional IC vehicles is not significant compared to the cost of developing a new electric. The Civic NGV has been available for some time now (actually not sure about the current generation). In my opinion it is a little overpriced, but otherwise interesting that is has no real competitors.

      I was part of a pilot study conducted by UCDavis in 1999 wherein I drove an NGV Civic as part of a car-share program for several months. The car was good, drove just like any other Civic. It also provided access to HOV lanes in California at the time.

      • 0 avatar

        The Civic is waaay overpriced, probably two tons of paperwork for each of those they build.

        We need high incentives to make more of these vehicles and trucks, I would say $7500 tax credit (note not a tax rebate) for a minimum 200 mile range on CNG.. I would love to see all diesel pickups (and cars if space allows) with a dual fuel option using CNG. Much higher tax credits for dual-fuel long haul 18 wheelers with CNG capability.

        Tax credits stimulate the economy and Detroit.

  • avatar

    Hope you guys find this post!

    Video tear-down on You-Tube of the Chevy Volt. All of the electronics on an EV is SCARY compared to a combustion vehicle.

    From EE Times Video
    For now, take a look at 10 video outtakes we grabbed over the three days to get a sense for what they found and how the teardown evolved in front of our time-lapse cameras.

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