The Chevrolet Volt is about to get safer. That's the big message from GM today as the company announced structural and cooling system "safety enhancements" that are intended to better distribute the car's energy load from a crash and, thus, better protect the battery from potential fires.

Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said that GM is treating this as a voluntary customer satisfaction issue, and therefor it is not a recall. Still, the process to fix the cars does kind of smell like a recall, since all the Volts that have left the factory – roughly 8,000 already sold and another 4,400 at dealerships (every Ampera will need to get this fix as well) – will need to be changed, a process that takes roughly 2-3 hours, Reuss said. He would not hint at what this could cost GM.

Mary Barra, senior vice president of Global Product Development, said the repair parts should be ready and out to dealers in February. In a conference call with reporters, Barra explained the fix this way:

First, we're going to strengthen an existing portion of the vehicle safety structure that protects the battery pack in the event of a severe side collision. ... The current steel tunnel of the car acts as a safety cage surrounding the battery pack. The side pole test impacts the car directly in line with the cross car structure. ... The structural enhancements more evenly distribute the load to further protect the battery and coolant line in the event of a severe side crash. In addition to these structural modifications, we are going to make enhancements to the cooling system. First, we're going to be installing a sensor in the reservoir of the battery cooling system to monitor battery coolant levels. We're also adding a tamper-resistant bracket to the top of the battery coolant resevoir to prevent a potential coolant overfill.

Barra added that the LG Chem cell chemistry used in the Volt is safe and that, "We still believe liquid cooling is the right option for the Volt."

Since Volt production was shut down for the holidays (as is normal), Reuss said that when it is restarted "very shortly" the safety enhancements will be in place. As for the cars out in the wild, GM dealers can still sell them before the repairs are made because, Reuss said, "the car is safe."

Not everyone is so sure. Reuss said that around 250 Volt owners have requested either a loaner vehicle or a potential buyback, but he said this number may change following today's announcement. As for people who are still shopping, Reuss said, "To our potential customers, if you're in the market, we think you'll be missing an opportunity if you don't consider the Volt."

With that in mind, what does 2012 hold for the Volt? Reuss admitted that even though higher production numbers have been set for the coming year, GM is flexible and that, "We will match supply with demand."
Show full PR text
GM Announces Enhancements to Chevrolet Volt
Changes follow NHTSA investigation into post-severe crash battery performance


2012-01-05

WARREN, Mich. – General Motors today announced enhancements to the vehicle structure and battery coolant system in the Chevrolet Volt that would further protect the battery from the possibility of an electrical fire occurring days or weeks after a severe crash.

The enhancements come in response to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Preliminary Evaluation to examine post-severe crash battery performance.

NHTSA opened its Preliminary Evaluation on Nov. 25 following a severe-impact lab test on a battery pack that resulted in an electrical fire six days later. The test was conducted to reproduce a coolant leak that occurred in a full-scale vehicle crash test last May that resulted in an electrical fire three weeks later.

The Volt is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and has earned other safety awards from key third-party organizations. Through the first 11 months of 2011, Volt owners accumulated nearly 20 million miles without an incident similar to the results in the NHTSA tests.

"The Volt has always been safe to drive. Now, we will go the extra mile to ensure our customers' peace of mind in the days and weeks following a severe crash," said Mary Barra, GM senior vice president of Global Product Development.

GM will conduct a Customer Satisfaction Program to further protect the Volt battery from the possibility of an electrical fire occurring days or weeks after a severe side crash. Modifications will:

Strengthen an existing portion of the Volt's vehicle safety structure to further protect the battery pack in a severe side collision.
Add a sensor in the reservoir of the battery coolant system to monitor coolant levels.
Add a tamper-resistant bracket to the top of the battery coolant reservoir to help prevent potential coolant overfill.

GM conducted four successful crash tests between Dec. 9 and 21 of Volts with the structural enhancement. The enhancement performed as intended. There was no intrusion into the battery pack and no coolant leakage in any of the tests.

"These enhancements and modifications will address the concerns raised by the severe crash tests," Barra said. "There are no changes to the Volt battery pack or cell chemistry as a result of these actions. We have tested the Volt's battery system for more than 285,000 hours, or 25 years, of operation. We're as confident as ever that the cell design is among the safest on the market."

Volt customers will be individually notified when the modifications are available for their vehicles. The enhancements are being incorporated into the Volt manufacturing process as production resumes this month.

"We're focused on one thing right now: doing what's right by our customers," said GM North America President Mark Reuss. "We'll live up to our commitment to make sure our customers are delighted with their purchase."

Vehicle electrification technologies are important to future of the automotive industry, which is why GM will continue its leadership role in helping the Society of Automotive Engineers develop standards that will help tow truck operators, salvage yards and vehicle recyclers in the proper handling of electric vehicle components. GM will help develop educational materials that can be used by these stakeholders in the future.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM's brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 66 Comments
      robertlyt
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's a shame that they didn't spend more time and money on R&D and testing for this car before unleashing it on the public. I guess those 2-3 years of teasing just weren't enough. [LOL]
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Sukairain
        • 3 Years Ago
        "The 250 people who did are morons." Such attitude. Keep talking gas price and oil companies - personally I'd go for the Leaf or Tesla. I think people who drive so-called electric cars with a gas tank and gasoline engine are @&#$^!( (misinformed)
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
          MTN RANGER
          • 3 Years Ago
          I was going to bring my Volt in for the update on my next oil change. But that is about two years from now. Frankly this is not a big deal.
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
          Sukairain
          • 3 Years Ago
          Doesn't the Volt need drilled oil to power the gasoline motor that supposed use so little oil? Not that I expect you to understand your own logic.....
        RocketRed
        • 3 Years Ago
        Steven, I disagree that the gasoline is more dangerous per se. In fact, one of gasolines' primary attributes is low volatility in transport and storage. Lithium batteries on the other hand have a nasty characteristic that gasoline does not have--it can spontaneously combust, and long after its host device idled. Does gasoline need to be cooled? No. It wont even combust at very high tempertures unless vaporized. This is why packaging and transport for such batteries, from cell-phone size and below, on aircraft and other modes of transportation is heavily regulated by U.S. and international law. Your peak oil stuff, sorry, it's not on. What will the unemployment rate be with $5/gallon? I don't know, why don't you check the countries that currently have $5/gallon-plus gas and their unemployment rates. Probably looks similar to ours.
          Sukairain
          • 3 Years Ago
          @RocketRed
          @ StevenG: The Volt has an ICE, fuel line, gas tank in addition to a lot of batteries that can heat up without proper cooling and sparks fly if punctured. So literally it's like surrounding yourself with a 20ft diameter pool of gasoline with shorting battery packs in the pool. I'd say that combination is pretty deadly.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @RocketRed
          [blocked]
          Sukairain
          • 3 Years Ago
          @RocketRed
          @StevenG: Sure, keep up the lies and ignorance, see what that gets you. (A Volt perhaps) IIRC you are the only person I've heard saying Lithium battery cause cancer - quite an idiotic thing to say.
        robertlyt
        • 3 Years Ago
        Peak Oil is a myth...sorry.
      Todd Dunning
      • 3 Years Ago
      $166.00 out of the pocket of every man, woman and child in the US - including you. That's what the $50 billion UAW bailout cost us. I don't remember ever being asked for my opinion on the issue - not that any of us are any more important than the UAW.
        Making11s
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Todd Dunning
        I'll just ignore that the Big 3 are all profitable now so you can continue to pretend that you're making a valid point.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Making11s
          [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Todd Dunning
        [blocked]
          SloopJohnB
          • 3 Years Ago
          And your problem with that, exactly is? Sour grapes. Buying/influencing people with or in power is the American way. Some methods are legal, some are not. Get over it.
        joynerz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Todd Dunning
        Yep. Shoulda' let 'em go down the tubes, right? That way the foreign car manufacturers could finally come on in and take over this industry. Right, bubba?
        Julius
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Todd Dunning
        "$166.00 out of the pocket of every man, woman and child in the US... " wow, that sounds expensive... until you realize that the bank bailouts cost about $8300 for every "man, woman and child in the US". But I guess we should feel more sympathy for that out-of-work Bear Sterns trader, eh?
      hp
      • 3 Years Ago
      Love it or hate it, that's a recall. Call a spade a spade; don't give us this "voluntary customer satisfaction" b.s.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @hp
        [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        @hp
        [blocked]
      William
      • 3 Years Ago
      The cost of the recall...your tax dollars at work. The very definition of "fascism."
      Randy
      • 3 Years Ago
      Structural Enhancements? That's intense! I wonder though, does the structural enhancements fix the potential fire thing that the Volt was in the news for or is that another matter altogether? Are they related? Anyone have any info so I don't have to go look?
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Randy
        [blocked]
        vince
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Randy
        You don't have too look anywhere, the information is in the first paragraph of the article. It probably took you more time to comment then it would have to read the first three lines of the article.
      GreaseMonkeySRT
      • 3 Years Ago
      FYI, there are about 80 vehicle related gasoline fires EVERY HOUR.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @GreaseMonkeySRT
        [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
          MTN RANGER
          • 3 Years Ago
          None were retail sold Volts. Only one Volt undergoing a grueling side impact impalement test start a fir after three weeks. The others were bare batteries being impact tested and rolled over. Big difference.
          Sukairain
          • 3 Years Ago
          Don't forget the Volt also runs on gasoline. So in addition to battery fire risk, it also has gasoline fire risk. It's time to play Double Jeopardy!
          Julius
          • 3 Years Ago
          "GM sold 5 Volts and 3 were on fire." Wow, must be alot of car fires near me, 'cause I've seen 4 in the past three weeks alone - one black, one that greenish color, one white, and one dark red.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        DB
        • 3 Years Ago
        Steven: Actually, the way you describe the test, both would get you burnt. The first will get you killed. Here's why: The Volt that caught fire did so because the coolant crystals took 3 weeks to form and it was the crystals that caused the short. The car burst into flames quickly after the short. If you mechanically short the batteries, they will explode almost immediately. Also Lithium fire burn MUCH faster and MUCH hotter than a gasoline fire. Gasoline itself is not very flammable in its liquid form. It is the evaporated gasoline vapors that are explosive. Gasoline lying in a puddle on a cold day won't immediately burst into flames. It takes a few seconds to start burning with much intensity. Still in doubt, try it and let me know how it works out.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Bryant Keith
        • 3 Years Ago
        I don't really think peace of mind when i think of GM products...i think more of a different kind of piece.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Bryant Keith
          [blocked]
      adika3z
      • 3 Years Ago
      oh no no no thank, i dont like this volt car
      shot1onnet
      • 3 Years Ago
      If you crash the car hard enough to damage the safety cage around the battery pack, the car is now totaled. What does it matter what may happen weeks later. Plenty of time to have the batteries discharged anyway.
      Rotation
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sounds like a recall to me. Voluntary, but still. And I don't mind. Better to get it right.
        Smile!
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        Volt method to repair is sure better than Toyota recalls. Toyota uses the total denial method!
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