The heat is rising and the cause isn't a crashed battery pack catching on fire.

As part of the hearing by a U.S. House's subcommittee hearing on the Chevrolet Volt's post-crash fire at a NHTSA test facility earlier this year, three Republicans have sent a letter to General Motors CEO Dan Akerson asking for more details on just what happened between the original crash test (which took place in May and June) and the first public discussion about the incident (which didn't come until November). The heart of the matter: "In light of the public outrage over Toyota's delayed disclosure, why did GM fail to disclose safety deficiencies with the Volt for five months?" GM is being asked to respond by December 21. Merry Christmas!

In other "news," people are noticing that GM is using "less volatile" nanophosphate lithium-ion batteries from A123 in the upcoming Spark EV. The reason this is getting traction now is that this chemistry is less likely to spark burn than what's in the Volt. This change was announced in early October and it must be bittersweet to A123, which lost out on supplying batteries for the Volt back in 2009 to LG Chem's cells that use lithium metal oxide/manganese cells.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 67 Comments
      fly by wireless
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yeah, it's not like that pile of bloviating political flesh in Washington would actually understand a thing about the engineering and science behind what really happened. The jackasses should just quit grandstanding and actually get something done because there's LOADS of work yet to be done already in Washington, let alone Michigan. Just let the NHSTA handle it and keep your fat noses out of it already.
      brotherkenny4
      • 3 Years Ago
      LGChem, A123, JCI, EnerDel, Saft etc. they all have batteries that are safer than gasoline.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        The Volt has LG chem batteries, Kenny.
          EZEE
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Omg, you killed Kenny!
        goodoldgorr
        • 3 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        The volt have a gasoline tank and a big battery, so i make 2 fire hazards instead of just 1 in a crash. Also the voltage tru-out the entire car is high with lots of current and that is also dangeurous if a malfunction occur or a crash and also over time as the car wear-out. You can explode, burn or get electrocuted or suffocated. I hope the volt have all the big fuses and electric safety equipments adding to the overall cost and complexity but this is necessary. This winter the volt will be hard tested in the real world with cold, humudity, snow, ice, dirt and mud on the road sticking to electrical apperatus of all kind causing rust under the floor, i hope i didn't attack the electrical wirings.
      Nick
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm amazed by the ridiculous proportions this issue has taken. The Volt batteries are excellent and cause absolutely no danger of fire. As with any other car, the energy should be drained after a serious crash, period. Problem solved. Polticians can go home.
        lne937s
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Nick
        Claiming that the Volt batteries "cause absolutely no danger of fire" is just as irresponsible as claiming that the car is a rolling death trap. The NHTSA is an organization that contains the tools and expertise to determine if there is an unreasonable safety risk of fire or not. Based on testing, they determined there was sufficient evidence to open a safety defect investigation, and will determine the appropriate course of action. You can look at the Volt battery pack and see places where they optimized for weight and cost, potentially leading to issues. However, only experts are qualified to determine if the issues are real and if they result in an unreasonable safety risk. All the politicians and GM apologists making absolute proclamations one way or the other are not qualified to do so and just escalate this further into an irrational screaming match. The more we can just let the qualified experts do their jobs, the better.
      • 16 Hours Ago
      You're numbers are off. You're looking at deaths not vehicle fires. If you assume 250M passenger cars and 6.1M accidents, then the accident rate is 2.44%. The rate of fires is 3 fires/1000 accidents. Given that we have about 2500 Volt years of driving, then the Volts should have been in 61 accidents and we should have seen .2 Volt fires. Since .2 is a way away from 1, the fact we haven't seen even one Volt is not statistically surprising. However, if the Volt was substantially more likely to catch fire than a straight ICE vehicle, say 10x greater, then we should have seen 2 fires from actual accidents. If 5X greater then we should have seen 1 real world fire. The fact is we've seen zero fires suggests there isn't any real elevated risk. In fact it's unlikely that we'll ever see the Volt catch fire at a rate in excess of any other vehicle with a fuel tank. This should be readily apparent from the fact that NHTSA isn't even looking at vehicle fires in crashes. It's looking at battery fires in storage after a car is totaled. No doubt NHTSA will eventually figure out that after you demolish a car you should drain the battery like you drain the fuel tank. And no doubt NHTSA is doing its job. The question is how well it's doing it.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wouldn't go over the top with criticism of NMC batteries simply because they may need a bit more car in designing the battery pack to ensure safety. The offer the highest energy density currently available, with for example the Nissan version perhaps offering twice as much as the current battery. Engineers have to design around a whole host of properties. For instance the NiMH batteries as used in the Prius do not inherently have great cold weather performance, but Toyota have done some clever engineering to keep it within the right temperature envelope to such an extent that I don't believe any problems have been reported even in very harsh climates like Canada. A potential fire hazard is something to be aware of, not to panic about and chuck out the possibility of reaching far higher energy density.
      EZEE
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hey everyone. The article seemed to be a bit snarky with the scare quotes around 'news' and 'less volatile.' Are the A123 batteries less volatile? If so, not sure about the scare quotes. And isn't a switch considered 'news? '
        JP
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @EZEE
        It's not really "news" because it's been known for a while that the new Spark was using A123 cells, and yes LiFePO4 cells are less volatile than most other lithium chemistries, which in truth are not that volatile to begin with.
        EZEE
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @EZEE
        Ahh. So the scare quotes were fine for the 'news' but 'less volatile' was a bit snarky. Thanks! :)
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      In happier GM news, the first official announcement by GMH of the Volt (US import) going on sale in Australia in Feb/March. I have been eagerly besieging my GM Holden dealer with my order, for some time now, so I have my fingers crossed that I'm toward the front of the queue! This will be an interesting test for the Volt, since Australia has no purchasing subsidies, (Volt will be subject to import duty), relatively cheap gasoline, heavily subsidised LPG alternative infrastructure and pricing. GMH, and the Australian Federal Government have been manoeuvring around each other as to the size of the governments incentive contribution for GM to produce the Holden/Buick Ampera in South Australia. This is one of the worst kept secrets ever, with leaks from the Australian government and GMH in abundance. .
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Are you getting one, or A fleet?
          Marco Polo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          @Ezee Initially, three as a fleet purchase. (replacing ageing hybrids).
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        @Noz Noz! Did you catch that? A fleet! (in a post where Noz was raving, I replied back that you (Marco) do more for electrics/hybrids than anyone in the room - he shot back with a denial of your ability to defecate, which I then mentioned that I know you are involved in the purchase of electrics and hybrids, but I was not sure how, or how many). @Marco - keep us all up to speed on how they work, how you like them, the good, and the bad. @ABG - since you have a person who posts and has a fleet, why not have him post real articles, if he agrees.
          EZEE
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @EZEE
          Oh, and 2 wheel will be happy you at least tried for 2 wheel EV's....
          EZEE
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @EZEE
          Thank you for the summary. You have made mention of a detail here and there, so I was curious. I had to look up the Blade EV during my reading as a result. Odd it doesn't get more press. Looks like a good little car. Something that stacks up well against the leaf. Too bad they can't ramp up production and advertising. Would be nice to see Aussie cars out there....(yea, but the Pontiac G8 was never really billed as an Aussie car - but, who doesn't like Australia? I have an outback restaurant nearby). Thanks again.
          Marco Polo
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @EZEE
          @Ezee The Volts will join our main corporate fleet as 'executive salary package' company cars, along side, Toyota Prius and Australian built Camry hybrids. I drive a Lexus GS 450h, (LEVRR in the UK) other directors have chosen Lexus GS 450h, RX 450h or LS 600h. We purchased 3 locally built Blade EV sedans. (I drive one around the city, and the other two are based at offices in other cities). In 4 years these little Hyundai based cars have proved very successful as urban commuters. Superior to the iMEV, and more available than the Nissan Leaf. In the UK we will include the Leaf and Ampera as employee options. We did try providing EV two-wheel vehicles, but the insurance became prohibitive. I have spent over 30 years financing corporate fleets. When I began in the banking industry, this undeveloped niche was the quickest way to make money ! I needed to make money quickly as upon my return from the Army and University, I discovered I was obliged to pay prohibitively enormous death duties, (Inheritance tax) and other accumulated debts, so my younger brother could retain the UK estate he loves. Like so many UK citizens during those bleak Labour years in the UK, I would have preferred to abandon the UK for my mothers country of Australia. 17 years ago my very environmentally active wife, urged me to finance a specialist electrical business involved in EV conversions and maritime electrical contracting to small island nations. This investment performed unsatisfactorily, but the staff were so enthusiastic that rather than close the enterprise down, I replaced funding with my own equity, and my wife and I assumed managerial responsibility. By concentrating on obscure specialist uses for EV's, we built a successful hire/lease EV vehicle business in 11 countries, operating over 490 electrified vehicles of one sort or another. It has proved a lot of fun. (Especially in the resort hire market!). The EV's range from small security patrol vehicles at Airports and other installations, EV motorcycle and golf cart hire, large specialist mining transport, even EV lawn mowers and agricultural vehicles. Regrettably, I am no longer as involved in the EV business, which thanks to the excellent managerial/franchising systems my late wife instituted, now largely runs itself. As an Australian land owner/farmer, I'm naturally interested in alternate energy and more environmental methods of agricultural production. I also enjoy helping build (or interfering!) community EV vehicles, which we donate as community assets to enhance the lifestyle of our rural community. It's really amazing the skill's possessed by retirees, and the eagerness of the young to become involved in such projects. I do contribute 'real' articles on environmental business for several publications. When I can retire, I will devote my time to campaigning against Bunker Oil and marine degradation. I
          Marco Polo
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @EZEE
          @Ezee My pleasure! Thanks for your interest. Ross Blade who is the founder of Blade is a really nice guy. So different from the usual dogmatic engineers in the Automotive business. The Australian government of both persuasions, and the Victorian government go out of their way to ignore Ross. Both have a vested interest in retaining the Australian (US/Japanese) auto-manufacturer and justifying the huge LPG subsidies.
      Mark Schaffer
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wonder when the radical political conservative Republicans are going to hold a hearing on all the car fires with injuries and deaths from gasoline and diesel fires in vehicles?
        Edge
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Mark Schaffer
        I think there is over a hundred million gasoline vehicles on the road, and what Volt's numbering in at less than 30,000? The government is there to protect it's citizens, and if regulation can make EV's safer, it will be better for the industry in the long run. This should be a concern for everyone.
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Edge
          999 times out of 1000 that would be voted way up...
        Floorman
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Mark Schaffer
        Look up "Pinto"
      lne937s
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think Akerson may end up being GM's savior here. At MCI, he sent massive campaign contributions to Republicans to support telecom deregulation. At Carlyle, they made money largely by leveraging political connections for defense contractors and fossil fuels companies. His co-workers at Carlyle included George HW Bush, George W Bush, John Major, etc. He was on the McCain Palin compliance committee... Other than the Koch brothers, it is hard to find a more politically-connected Republican CEO. All those years of providing massive support for the Republican party and all his connections should get GM a little bit better treatment than they would have otherwise.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      the Dodge Flame, the Chevy Burn, the GMC Ignition and the Ford Burst : ) let's not get carried away. so far it's a non issue. but lifepo certainly has some advantages. performance being my favorite.
        HVH20
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        For once I agree with DF, LiFePO4 cells are already a mature and SAFE lithium chemistry. The worst that can happen is a little white smoke and some heat. Plus you can put a pack together at half the cost of A123.
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        @Dan I always laugh when people are all, 'well I can't effing believe this, but I agree with Dan....'
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        The ford burst, I am assuming is the pinto, but which is the dodge?
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 3 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          no I was just making up names that could be as unfortunate as the Chevy Spark in case there were general fire issues with EVs : )
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          Omg....I snorted... :D There was also the Avalanche, Typhoon, and I think one other naturally disaster name....forget...
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        @hvh I keep telling people Dan isn't that bad. Light weight and aero, cheaper batteries...it's all good...
      Marco Polo
      • 16 Hours Ago
      Inge937s Sadly, what you write is all too true!
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      My fear is that all this nonsense will damage Volts Fleet sales . GM needs corporate fleet sales to compensate for the Volts relatively high price. The key to fleet success is the kudos of being an up-market, fashionable, vehicle with an exciting new 'green' technology. No exec wants to take home a car his wife is scared with burn down the garage, and he can't park without his contemporaries making annoyingly ignorant 'fire' jokes. This is a very serious issue for GM, and Voltec technology. Those US politicians who cynically and wrongfully chose to exploit this minor issue as an opportunity to disparage US technology, and harm the sales of US products, should be spurned by voters come polling day!
        lne937s
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Brand name nationalism doesn't justify this one way or the other. This is politics, and all politics is local. It has little to do with ideology. Fundamentally, congressmen tend to look out for their home districts. Conservative congressman who ideologically speak out against all government spending on a national level are more than happy to get it for their home districts (and tend to get more of it). Fundamentally, the cause of this is the Prius hearings, where recalls became politicized in order for congressmen to support their constituencies. It isn't about oil conspiracies-- Dennis Kucinich is one of the most liberal Democrats, but his attack on the most fuel efficient vehicle sold in America at the time benefited the union constituency that elected him. Toyota makes the majority of cars in the US that are sold here, but not in the districts of the Congressmen attacking them. Sure, the Toyota hearings may have distracted from the bailouts (like this reminds us of them), but that wasn't the primary motivation. That congressional witch hunt over what amounted to no more than some loose floor mats and some dishonest people was a low blow that was politically motivated (like this one). The attack on Toyota's eco friendly halo vehicle sought to undermine Toyota's market share, just like this one seeks to undermine GM’s market share. Now it is time for political turnabout and retribution. That doesn't make these hearings or the hearings before them right, it is just the political game being played now... which was started by supporters of the UAW and Detroit automakers. If those congressmen wanted to diffuse this, in my opinion they should admit that they got caught up in the last hearing, acknowledge they weren't qualified to judge safety defects and were wrong to start the congressional hearing. Then apologize to Toyota, proclaim that they have learned from their mistake and that safety defect investigations and recalls should not be politicized... but of course they won't do this, and it will probably just escalate.
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