What, we worry?

A General Motors executive is downplaying the potential effects of last week's explosion of a prototype battery pack in Michigan on sales of plug-in vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in, saying that high gas prices will continue to fuel sales momentum.

Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet's global marketing efforts, said at a Detroit charity event that the battery involved was subject to extreme stress testing unlikely to be replicated in real-world driving and didn't involve a battery that would be used in a Volt, according to The Detroit Bureau. The explosion injured six workers at a GM plant in Warren, Michigan, according to the publication.

Additionally, Design News interviewed a number of engineering experts who said the public shouldn't assume that the accident indicates that the batteries are explosive, noting that the accident was closer to a "fire" than an "explosion" and that the batteries themselves were intact after the accident.

GM's hoping the incident doesn't curtail the Chevrolet Volt's hard-earned sales momentum. Last month, GM sold a monthly-record 2,289 Volts, which was more than three times the numbers from a year before. Higher sales are causing GM to shorten a previously scheduled production shutdown of the Volt to four weeks from five.

Last year, Volt's sales were likely hampered by a vehicle fire that took place weeks after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a crash test on the car. NHTSA said earlier this year that plug-in vehicles don't pose a greater fire risk than gas-powered cars.


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  • 15 Comments
      Fgergergrergr
      • 3 Years Ago
      Does every single article that even mentions the Volt need to mention the NHTSA incident. Does every single Ferrari and Lamborghini article mention their own "fire" incidents?
        PR
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Fgergergrergr
        That's not a fair comparison. Actual real live Ferrari's and Lambo's have actually gone up in flames with their drivers having to flee the fire. No Volts in real life in the hands of actual owners have ever burst into flames due to anything wrong with the Volt. But I completely get your point. You won't see AutoBlog prefacing every single BMW or Rolls Royce story with a note about this recall for this potential fire hazard: "BMW is recalling 2,846 vehicles, including the 2012 7 Series, X5 and X6, because the circuit board for the electric auxiliary water pump can overheat, leading to a smoldering of the pump or an engine compartment or vehicle fire, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration." http://www.insideline.com/bmw/7-series/2012/2011-12-bmws-2010-11-rolls-royce-ghosts-recalled-for-fire-risk.html
      JP
      • 3 Years Ago
      "noting that the accident was closer to a "fire" than an "explosion" and that the batteries themselves were intact after the accident." Sounds more like an explosion than a fire to me if 8 inch thick doors were blown open.
      PR
      • 3 Years Ago
      We've heard all the battery fear-mongering for over a decade starting with the first Honda and Toyota hybrids with battery packs. It was mindless fear-mongering that was proven to be empty rhetoric and it has little to no impact on sales today. History repeats itself. We're hearing the exact same rhetoric from many of the exact same people.
      brotherkenny4
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think the people who can buy a Volt are very unlikely to be misled my the media morons. You don't get ahead by following the spew from the TV. I'll bet your actually more likely to be in one of the underwater loan houses and driving an SUV on a 70 mile commute.
      Ryan
      • 3 Years Ago
      After watching EVTV's show on March 30th about A123 pouch cells and what they think of them in terms of safety... I'm not sure I would want to use them in the construction of a pack by myself. I'm sure they are fine once they are installed, but it sounds dangerous if you short one of them out. All batteries should have a fuse or something that could help prevent catastrophic failure from shorting the terminals...
        JP
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        Nothing can stop a cell from discharging if you short the terminals. It also has nothing to do with the GM accident, which was the result of an intentional stress test, overcharging a cell to 150%. I also suspect it was not a LiFePO4 cell.
          Ryan
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JP
          If you had a *fuse inside the battery it would prevent you from doing that. Or something like a fuse or switch. I'm not sure how cost effective that would be to have individual fuses to prevent high amp discharges (higher than normal), yet under what a short would be.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        Better stay away from all forms of stored energy if you can't handle it.. A123 is one of the the safest battery formulations out there. Fuses won't protect you against all sorts of shorts! Besides, i don't think they're going to install hundreds of fuses in every battery anyway. That'd make things pretty big, heavy, and expensive..
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          All fuses and circuit breakers will do is protect you from known situations. Throw in some sort of massive accident, and released energy is released energy. Can you imagine if we had the 1950's nuclear powered cars had an issue after an accident? o.O Gasoline, battery, rubber band, hamster....rapid release would cause a problem with all. The only problem with the battery is that potentially, the release is slow enough that Elle might not realize there is a problem, and then 2 weeks later, a fire. Or I suppose a person could get shocked. Both are bad, but the alternative is instantaneous explosion From a gas tank...
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          I read on another site that this was an A123... Is that true?
      Grendal
      • 3 Years Ago
      It bears repeating: On average there is 744 vehicle fires in the US every day. Those fires usually result in at least 1 death. Interestingly, there were no deaths due to vehicle electrical fires from 2003-2008. Source: http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/vehicleexecsum.pdf EV's are much safer than gas cars when it comes to explosions and fire.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Grendal
        That is interesting. It means that in a conventional car there is around a 1 in a thousand chance of a fire every year. With maybe 20,000 electric/plug in cars now in the road in the the US and since many of them have recently been bought they have accumulated maybe 10,000 car-years of use, so one would expect around 10 fires. I can't see any reason why there should be less than the average fires on the Volt, as it still has all the bits which a conventional car has which can catch on fire. Perhaps many of the fires on conventional cars are in older ones. Anyone any idea why we don't seem to have had any fires at all on electric or plug in vehicles?
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Grendal
        That is interesting. It means that in a conventional car there is around a 1 in a thousand chance of a fire every year. With maybe 20,000 electric/plug in cars now in the road in the the US and since many of them have recently been bought they have accumulated maybe 10,000 car-years of use, so one would expect around 10 fires. I can't see any reason why there should be less than the average fires on the Volt, as it still has all the bits which a conventional car has which can catch on fire. Perhaps many of the fires on conventional cars are in older ones. Anyone any idea why we don't seem to have had any fires at all on electric or plug in vehicles?
          Grendal
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          "Perhaps many of the fires on conventional cars are in older ones." It's probably part of the reason. You can make errors in an ICE like leaving the oil cap off (spaying oil all over the engine), driving without changing the oil, and spilling oil over the engine trying to top off. All of those scenarios could lead to an engine fire.
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