• Aug 26th 2009 at 11:53AM
  • 34
Chevy Volt water testing - Click above to watch the video after the break

Ever wonder what will happen if an electric vehicle is submerged under water? It seems to be a valid concern, what with all those amps seemingly ready to discharge at a moments notice into the ocean blue. Worry not, electric car fans, automakers like General Motors have got your backs.

Our friends at GM-Volt.com sat down with Lance Turner, who currently acts as lead engineer in the Volt battery lab after previously working on the EV1 project, and he did his best to lay those watery fears to rest. According to Turner, the Volt's battery pack will be sealed up tight with special attention paid to the high voltage lines between the battery pack and the inverter.

Apparently, The General has been down this road before with the EV1. An entire electric car was placed inside a container and seawater was slowly added. When the water reached the battery, a series of protective measures shut the car down and sensors placed on dummy occupants proved that no harm had been done.

Just for fun, click past the break for a video of a Volt IVER prototype being water tested for leaks. You'll also see an image of a Mitsubishi iMiEV being tested in the water for safety, proving GM's not the only automaker testing its EVs in this manner.

[Source: GM-Volt.com]


Mitsubishi iMiEV water testing - Click above to enlarge

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      So, if the Volt has a mechanical problem, and you take it in to the Chevy dealer they won't look for little white, red, or purple dots indicating you got the car wet? ;-)
      • 6 Years Ago
      I like to see more automakers come out with cars like the volt so these electric cars become cheaper over time which starts to replace oil driven cars ! I can't wait to see how more production of cars like the volt gives opec a fun reality check. Opec has killed every country with their greedy hold of their oil over our needs and the volt is well, lol the volt that will slow the greedy heart of opec down! maybe that would be enough to send Opec a wake up call that they can't rip us off and to survive their have to do fair prices that consumers can afford .. NOW THATS ONE FREE MARKET I AM ALL FOR! also I guess some could say well opec will charge more for the less use of oil but the more they charge The more I believe consumers will look to cars like the chevy volt. even more mass production of cars like with Toyota ford, Honda hybrids and future hybrids/electric cars from Nissan and Hyundai will slow the demand for oil. I've been ripped off for years by opec and I want to see opec being bleed dry and slowly !
      • 6 Years Ago
      The video shows a heavy rain type of test, not a New Orleans type test.

      Does the volt have a 12V battery to run ancillary systems like the prius? If not then good luck rolling the windows down to escape a submerged vehicle once the battery has been disabled.
        • 6 Years Ago

        The Volt won't help them return to profitability, it'll be the foundation for their profitability ten or twenty years from now and through the rest of the century.

        Long-term thinking FTW.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Mel, yes it is possible, as the exotic Rinspeed "Squba" concept car demonstrated. It is a fully submersible electric sports car, the type you'd expect James Bond 007 to drive.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, the Volt has a separate 12V battery for electric windows, door locks, wipers, sound system, etc, etc. Other than providing redundancy in emergencies such as submerging in a ditch or canal, it eliminates the need to route high voltage (360V or so) to the doors, instrument panel, etc.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Shouldn't it be possible to seal off the electric drive train in a way that it can operate under water. There are plenty of watertight connectors used on industrial grade equipment. That way you wouldn't get stuck in water. As for the fear of electrocution, isn't the car body providing a faraday cage of sorts, protecting you from the voltage anyways?

        p.s. : Greg Blencoe and Gorr: please grow up, we all know by now you found the copy-paste command, and we all know you love hydrogen cars, just go buy one and enjoy! Find new toys - please!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Furthermore i forgot some other great advantages. Second generation fuelcell car can be transformed into a flying car for very cheap by fitting an inflatable hydrogen balloon on the top of the car that inflate and deflate with the already installed gazeous hydrogen tank and pump. No battery car will ever do that, that's why it has been impeded by subsidies to carlos gnosn, gm, toyota president, etc. So if you end-up going into water just activate your flying driving option. Further more the driving cost are lower if you fly directly to the destination without traffic.
        • 6 Years Ago
        gore's magical perpetual motion hydrogen electrolysis machine could also make hydrogen cars into fantastic underwater submarines since they would also be creating oxygen which could be used to supply fresh air.

        All things are possible if we suspend the laws of nature!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Love the flying car bit. With a little more work, I bet it can do time-travel as well. You know...like that Delorean in the movie.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Ok, that is THE most awesome post I have ever read on Autoblog.

        • 6 Years Ago
        future James Bond Film ....Villain chases Bond over the cliff .... on the way down, Bond hits the balloon inflation button in his FC car and sails into the sunset while the villain in a volt crashes into the river below.... and then gets electrocuted :)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Death by electrocution.

      Come on now, admit it. Isn't this the way most hybrid owners would prefer to depart this earth?
      • 6 Years Ago
      As usual, ABG is FOS.

      The VOLT is a hoax; it doesn't matter if it can charge like a submarine, it will "swim with the fishes" in the sense that it will be DOA.

      GM doesn't intend it to succeed, obviously, using the wrong battery. They will have to run the engine-generator when the thing needs 200 amps on acceleration, or the battery wont last. So it won't be a real EV with a range-extender, the battery pack is too small and the wrong chemistry.

      Try doing it with a 30 kWh NiMH or lead-acid pack.

      GM goofballs put a bad pack in the EV1, to sabotage it; only after Toyota released the NiMH battery used in the HondaEV, RAV4-EV and RangerEV did GM upgrade to good lead-acid batteries, and finally, 3 years later, start releasing NiMH versions.

      GM wants it to FAIL, just like GM.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Maybe CARB is the problem, then, you think? We know that they are killing the plug-in Prius conversion market!

        Actually, in reality, lead-acid will give you 100 miles all-electric range; I just took delivery of a conversion with about 100 miles range using inferior, non-high-tech, Optima YT batteries. With the PSB 1260 batteries that were in the 1999 EV1, I would get 110 miles range.

        For 40 miles, lead-acid is best; but if GM were serious, they would put a 400-lb lead-acid pack in the so-called VOLT-hoax, it would give you 8 kWh, enough for 20 to 40 all-electric miles.

        Then, when and if Lithium or superior NiMH becomes available, upgrade!!

        But that would be the way to do it IF GM wanted to succeed; obviously, GM wants the VOLT-hoax to fail, just as it put out the EV1, in 1996, with the WRONG BATTERY.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Doug, I agree that GM is not really committed to electric cars but you are showing some very concerning old irate man signs with the nimh/lead bullshit. lithium is vastly better on all counts. even cost desite being overpriced right now, because the lower weight and longer life means you need less. once production of lithium batteries gets into car mass production scale it will become quite cheap as there is nothing too expensive in a lithium battery. in principle a lithium car battery pack could become so cheap that it would be comparable to the price of a couple of tanks of gas.

        GM is packed with morons and assholes, certainly, but that doesn't excuse your thoughtless rantings Doug. try getting at least the big things right. Nimh died with LiFePO4 and lead died with Nimh.
        • 6 Years Ago
        For the same capacity, lead-acid would weigh 3x as much and wouldn't last long enough to meet CARB warranty requirements.

        NiMH would weigh 2x as much and would cost more per kWh than the pack they're currently using.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "An entire electric car was placed inside a container and seawater was slowly added."

      I'm not worried. I won't buy a Volt or any other electric, hybrid or not, but not simply because of this newly-publicized danger - electrocution. You back-yard mechanics can forget about working on a hybrid yourself, too. You would probably void the warranty.

      Just be sure that when you submerge your Volt, you do it gradually, just like in the GM tests. Don't most vehicle entries into a lake or river occur because of some collision? Any damage to the Volt or other electric could cause the battery-pack seal to fail. Now let's test that scenario - after all, it has to pass the government collision tests like any other vehicle, and the gas-tank safety standards should have a counterpart in a standard for electrocution dangers for any battery-powered vehicle in the event of a collision. Let's be fair, and, for those of you with range anxiety, rational, too.

      The deterrents to buying any electric vehicle continue to grow.
        • 6 Years Ago
        interesting - I guess we will find out how safe or unsafe smashed upelectric cars are in the water at some point. Of course the private automobile is hardly a safe thing to start with. Worldwide I believe it kills about 3000 per day in crashes .... and there is nothing inherently safe about driving around with a tank of gasoline .
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dan F., your diatribe is misinformed on several points.

      1. Lithium is ALREADY in mass production, for laptop batteries; all the economies of scale have ALREADY occurred. The price is not coming down, it's going to go up, since it depends on electric power to process the Lithium Carbonate. The BIG problem for Lithium cost is that it's far more economical to mine new Li than it is to reprocess depleted Li batteries. 99% of lead-acid batteries are recycled, because of the valuable Pb metal; old Li batteries are just thrown away, they have no value.

      With NiMH or lead, the existing stock of batteries in use provide an "urban mining" supply for future cars; you take the old NiMH batteries, melt them down, and reform then into new batteries using the same metal, perhaps after they wear out (200K miles, maybe more, as they are improved). We are DRIVING NiMH and lead-acid EVs, and know what we are talking about; we also drive Lithium Tesla, and love it, but understand, the batteries are so expensive that it can never be practical for the mass market.

      2. GM, if they wanted to get the car out, and have actual customers, would be able to use lead-acid; but they don't want to do it. Surely even Bob Lutz could find out, even if he doesn't know, that the 1999 EV1 with lead batteries had 110 miles range.

      3. As for NiMH, it REMAINS the standard, proven EV battery, the one that GM and Standard Oil went out of their way to kill; it still works faultlessly in our 7- or 8-year-old Toyota RAV4-EV, the only EV car ever offered to the public for sale. Many of our RAV4-EV now have over 100K miles.

      4. Some day, Lithium MAY be proven to work in EVs; for now, it costs $100,000 for a Lithium EV, and the batteries, so far, have not lasted more than 50,000 miles.

      There is no Lithium EV that has lasted more than 50K miles on the same battery pack. Maybe there will be; maybe it will be superior. But the FACTS are, for now, that NiMH is the most economical and reliable battery for EVs, and lead-acid is the least expensive from a life-cycle cost perspective.

      Look at the numbers, and you will begin to see.

      Life-cycle-cost = purchase price + logistical support + or - scrap value
      Jack Lifton
      • 6 Years Ago
      If the 12 Volt, lead-acid, I presume battery is used to power the accessories, many of which can run all of the time, is it recharged continually by the on board ICE, as it would be if it were in the SLI system of an ICE? By the way is the lead-acid battery used to start the Volt's ICE? The Prius has a lead-acid SLI battery also. This, I think, is to avoid the large drain on the Prius' nickel metal hydride battery that would ensue if it were used directly for SLI purposes. Such a drain at low charge for the NiMH battery could damage or destroy it. Can I assume the same situation, the same concern for charge level maintenance, and the same solution, for the Volt's SLI needs? It looks like the Volt, like the Prius, has a dual battery system.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Jack Lifton
        The 12 volt lead acid battery in the Volt has the same function as the 12 volt lead acid battery in the Prius - it runs 12 volt accessories, and the cars computers, and the security sytem when the car is parked and off. Nothing else.

        Both the Volt and the Prius use their high voltage traction battery for engine starting, as that has a lot more power available. The starters on the Prius and the Volt are permanently coupled to the engine, no clutch or solenoid, so it needs a high torque high power motor/generator, and the 12 volt battery simply doesn't have the power it needs. Of course, this means a far more reliable starter!

        The 12 volt battery is recharged by a DC/DC converter that takes power from the high voltage battery and/or the motor/generator, and reduces the voltage to the proper 12 volts. The engine does not need to be running at that time. .
      • 6 Years Ago
      The volt has a better chance of surviving underwater than a regular car. The Volt's motor does not have an air intake system.
        • 6 Years Ago
        PopSmith, just for the record, you can't "decimate" a single thing. You can only decimate something made of many, a group, a population... Sorry, pet peeve.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You do realize that the Volt isn't a pure EV right?

        It's an ER-EV so it packs an ICE to charge it's small battery. The ICE contains an air intake system and would be decimated underwater.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If you happen to have an accidents and run into water with a volt, then you will go directly
      at the bottom of the lake because it's a 2x costly and weighty car and get electrocuted because the battery will not turn off and it will fry all electric components. On the other hand if you run into water with a fuelcell car, then you will float because the hydrogen tank float and the car is not weighty and costly and the hydrogen tank is unbrokable and the electrics components will stay correct because the electricity will be shut down except the radio and gps instruments to call for a rescue or the tv news channels.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The YouTube video of the water testing is actually quite interesting!

      It's good to see that this won't be a problem for the few thousand or few tens of thousands of people that end up buying the Chevy Volt.

      Three things everybody should know about the Chevy Volt


      It also won't be a problem for the many, many millions of people who buy a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle either.

      7 reasons to love Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles


      Greg Blencoe
      Chief Executive Officer
      Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
        • 6 Years Ago
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        Atten: Managing Director.

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        Snr,Staff Of (No/Oil) set up by present Civilian Regime of President Obasanjo. So far we have come across a surplus of the sum of US$27M.(Twenty-seven Million
        Dollars) which was as a result of deliberate over-invoicing of certain contracts awarded by Contract Award Committee of the cooperation.

        The last installments due has been paid to the various Contractors, while the said surplus still floats in our Apex Bank waiting Off-shore remittance which we want to carry out right now. As civil servants we not allowed operate foreign account, therefore seek your assistance in providing enabling Bank Account where the Fund would be lodged. 25% of the total Sum is for you 5% for expenses during transaction, and 70% for my colleagues and me.

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        Best Regards,

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        • 6 Years Ago
        Look, no one here agrees with you. Spamming your links to a wordpress blog over and over isn't the way to get fans.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I am sure Toyota appreciates the sloppy kisses you keep giving them, but you are clearly full of it.

        Your site states that the Volt won't be cost effective. No shit? I think everyone knows that NONE these eco cars are cost effective. (Especially your beloved hydrogen pwered cars.)

        A ZR-1 isn't cost effective either, but people still buy them becuase they see a value.
        • 6 Years Ago
        HFCV advocates like Blenco dislike PHEVs (such as Volt) because they eliminate any rational for bothering to build a hydrogen infrastructure.

        PHEVs offer a reasonable bridge technology to pure BEVs. They use existing infrastructure, i.e. home charging and ubiquitous gas stations, while allowing established automakers to leverage their ICE know-how. As more (relatively low cost) public charging stations go online, the utility of PHEVs is increased. This is without any advancement in technology. Over time, as batteries get better and cheaper, consumers get used to plugging in, and/or more public charging stations become available, the "need" for an ICE range extender diminishes.

        I can think of no analogous bridge technology for HFCVs. It is a very expensive chicken and egg problem that benefits no one but the oil companies, who want to delay a transition to alternatives, and folks like Greg Blenco, who have some hydrogen dependent products to sell.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I thought the headline was referring to the certain market FAIL pending for the Volt, a product that GM should not be producing since it won't help them return to profitability.

        As for H2 fuel cell vehicles, I'd buy one if there was infrastructure... and payback. Ya can't sell $40k economy cars.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I've don't really have anything against hydrogen cars, especially considering that they are just electric cars running on what would essentially be a hydrogen "battery", but this guy is starting to annoy me.

        All he does is bash battery electric vehicles. What's the point of it?
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