Spontaneous combustion concerns weeks after a crash may prompt General Motors to spend about $1,000 per Chevrolet Volt to fix, according to a report from Reuters. The proposed fixes, which would cost a total of $9 million, would likely include reinforcements around vulnerable areas of the car's battery pack, lamination of electric circuitry and better protection for the coolant system to stop leaks.

After a severe crash that causes damage to the Volt's battery pack, coolant can leak out, and if the battery is not discharged, a fire may start. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered the fire danger this past summer when one of its crashed Volts caught fire three weeks after testing. Two more batteries later caught fire when put through simulated crash testing by NHTSA.

Despite the fire risks, both NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have said they have no plans to change their safety ratings for the Volt. Both organizations gave Chevy's electric car top marks for safety after initial crash testing.

GM has repeatedly said that the Volt is safe to drive and poses no immediate risk of fire after an accident. Yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood echoed that sentiment. Buyers have been offered loaner cars while the automaker investigates a solution and has vowed to buy back Volts from any owners who no longer want the car due to safety concerns. So far, a "couple dozen" Volt owners have taken GM up on the offer.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 55 Comments
      IBx27
      • 3 Years Ago
      Can we opt out and save $1,000 for being smart enough to exit the vehicle before 3 weeks after a crash?
      dave and mary
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a great feeling knowing I helped pay for a car I don't want; and neither do many other people.
      Keith Tanner
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't see why this is an issue other than in the sensationalist press. The battery can catch fire IF IT IS NOT DISCHARGED. Like draining the gas tank. So, simple solution. After a Volt or any other hybrid has been crashed, discharge the battery. Voila, no fire. I'll bet there was some excitement when the crashed Volt sitting in the "cars that were tested" yard just lit up after being inert for three weeks.
        HaterSlayer
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Keith Tanner
        What you say makes too much sense. I'd rather just panic.
      vince
      • 3 Years Ago
      There is no risk of "spontaneous" combustion. The risk of fire is caused by a collision so severe that the battery is damaged and the cooling fluids leak out, which would mean there is an external influence needed to create the risk of combustion. I know it sounds cool, but its wrong. If the battery could catch on fire by itself just sitting there without being damaged, then you could claim that concerns of "spontaneous" combustion exist. Hate to be a grammar nazi or whatever but its the first word in the article and it makes the problem seem more severe then it is, and will provide flame bait to people who will just read the first line of the article and then post idiotic troll comments, and I hate to see that.
        Pj Taintz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @vince
        I see a new way for hitmen to do their thing now. step 1 puncture batt on batt powered car step 2 wait 3 weeks step 3 profit!
      over9000
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hang on to top safety rating? Isn't that a government conspiracy?
        Toneron
        • 3 Years Ago
        @over9000
        Yup. All this Volt crap is a government conspiracy!
      Car Guy
      • 3 Years Ago
      Will the taxpayers get the $7500 back in free money each Volt owner got if they return the car?
        Car Guy
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Car Guy
        Buy a volt.....get $7500 from the government. Read that sentence very slowly if you still don't understand.
        bvz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Car Guy
        Buy a Volt, pay $7500 less in taxes. You don't "get" $7500 from the government. I don't know why this is so hard to understand. It is a tax credit. Look up what the definition of a tax credit is before you post. Nobody "got" any free money. They just paid less in taxes. Like people who have children. Or people who buy houses. Or anyone who improves the energy efficiency of their home. Or anyone who donated money to a charity. Or corporations who make money overseas. Or buying an SUV (section 179). Or if you make money from investments (capital gains). None of these are free money because they are all tax breaks or credits. Both Google and a little critical thinking are your friend. No matter how slowly you read.
        bvz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Car Guy
        I'm guessing the answer is "no" since nobody got any free money. What the heck are you talking about?
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Car Guy
        [blocked]
      Toneron
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a joke. Bye bye!
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Carac
        • 3 Years Ago
        Are these "leaks" spontaneous, or are they due to the car being in an accident?
          Kris
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          typically due to accidents where the battery is compromised. To put it as simple as possible, the stored energy continues to "flow" around the battery whether it is on or off. If the path the energy travels, within the battery, is physically changed (i.e. lets say a wire is stretched from thick to thin) then the energy flowing through this part of the path is met with greater resistance. Resistance generates heat, heat builds up until it ignites.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          [blocked]
        dukeisduke
        • 3 Years Ago
        There was no point making an announcing until they had time to investigate the cause.
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
        Ali Zein Yousuf
        • 3 Years Ago
        Because they actually ****** up. They didn't follow the proper procedures after the Volt crash test on how to ensure everything was safe and stable. Just like how you have to drain the fluids from a regular car, you also need to discharge the battery in an electric or a hybrid after a crash. They ****** up. Not Chevy.
          Famsert
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ali Zein Yousuf
          Except the Leaf had no such problem. Try again Ali.
          Pj Taintz
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ali Zein Yousuf
          I know you got a history of being dugg down sea, and i am a volt fan, but you are right here. However on the other hand people are making a big deal about nothing because as others said, for the batt to be damaged enough to catch fire, it would have to be in a totaled car. It isnt that hard to inform salvage yards on the proper procedure on totalling out a volt or draining the batt or whatever is needed to keep it safe. on the other hand, of course if it can be prevented, GM owes it to us, and especially volt owners to fix the issue
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        vince
        • 3 Years Ago
        Your comments are getting so ridiculous that I am beginning to wonder if you are actually a GM fan and are just trying to make their detractors look stupid by posting this garbage...
        GearheadGeek
        • 3 Years Ago
        If you like to hang out in your totaled car for weeks after a crash, you MIGHT be at risk in a Volt. Are your reading skill so poor that you can't parse the information and figure out that the Volt PASSES all of its crash tests? Or are you just a jerk with an agenda, harping endlessly about GM and cherrypicking only the information that supports your preconceptions? If safety recommendations are followed and the battery is discharged after a serious accident that totals the car, this is a non-issue
        Jason Allen
        • 3 Years Ago
        You are hysterically wrong in every way. Vapor is your intellect!
      Carac
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sooooo, there is a problem trying to drive the car after its been in an accident so bad it damages the battery... Here's an idea, don't attempt to drive a wrecked Volt until its repaired. You know what else has a chance to catch fire? A car with a hole in the fuel tank after an accident.
        over9000
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Carac
        you're an idiot. What if it's sitting out in the parking lot waiting to be repaired? It would be disastrous with who knows what's around it (other vehicle, property damage, people).
          Dark Gnat
          • 3 Years Ago
          @over9000
          Any crash serious enough to damage the battery pack would total the car. It would go to a salvage yard. The coolant in question crystallized, which created a short circuit, which cased the fire. Simply following recommended safety precautions should prevent this. No different than gasoline or any other potentially flammable fluid found in cars.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Sukairain
      • 3 Years Ago
      "would likely include reinforcements around vulnerable areas of the car's battery pack, lamination of electric circuitry and better protection for the coolant system to stop leaks." So it's not just the coolants, the battery is vulnerable and electric circuits weren't protected in the first place? "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered the fire danger this past summer when one of its crashed Volts caught fire three weeks after testing. Two more batteries later caught fire when put through simulated crash testing by NHTSA." Wait what? 3 Volt battery packs caught fire at NHTSA? The buy back has more to do with legal liability more than customer service. If it is proven the fire risk and battery design flaws were evident a long time ago, GM will have a lot of explaining to do - except not too many potential buyers would care to hear it.
        Carac
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sukairain
        It may just be the engineer in me but I think giving the occupants of the car a couple of weeks to get out of the car before it catches fire means the battery pack is a decent design. Especially since the tests/accidents staged by the NHTSA would almost certainly be considered "totaled." After an accident a battery pack of an electric car is supposed to be drained of charge, which wasn't done in either of the crashed cars. Again, I will summarize this whole situation. Two Chevy Volts that were totaled in accidents at the NHTSA's facilites caught fire WEEKS after the accidents because they were not discharged...done.
          Sukairain
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          @Ine937s What!!? Can you point us to the source of the information regarding these 3 fires? OMG this is a lot worse than I thought. People were sitting on information that one single volt caught fire 3 weeks after fact. Obviously both GM and NHTSA knew a lot more about the fire risk than what they released. This is not good at all....
          Sukairain
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          ^Well, the Volt has a gas tank too, so good luck with that. Overheating battery pack right next to fuel line and gas tank. Sigh~
          lne937s
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          One caught fire weeks later, one caught fire a little less than a week later and one caught fire immediately after it was turned over to simulate a rollover. Batteries from other cars were also tested and none of them caught fire.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          [blocked]
          Carac
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          I had not seen the report about the rollover. In any case, the growing pains of any new method of propelling a car are going to have some technical obstacles. Imagine when they start testing hydrogen fuel cells. News outlets are no doubt wringing their hands in anticipation of the fear and misinformation they can disseminate. If we spent as much time and effort into engineering as we do finding blame and suing, we'd have flying cars running on fusion reactors.
          Julius
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carac
          @ Ine937s: Umm... the three packs that were tested AFTER the first fire were all rolled to simulate a rollover. One caught fire a week after, one "sparked and smoked" immediately, but did not ignite.
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