NHTSA supports the modifications developed by General Motors to address "specific attributes" particular to electric vehicles in the event of a crash. GM is retrofitting the nearly 8,000 Volts sold with additional side reinforcements and a sensor to detect coolant leaks, which was found to be the cause of the short-circuiting battery and resulting fires. The agency also issued guidelines for first responders and auto shops coming who encounter Volts that have been involved in accidents.
That means the safety fire has been put out, but a political fire still burns in Congress. General Motors CEO Dan Akerson and NHTSA head David Strickland will face a House panel in a few days to answer questions about the timeline of the investigation. Follow the jump to read NHTSA's statement on the investigation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2012
Contact: Lynda Tran, 202-366-9550
WASHINGTON, DC - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the following statement today regarding the conclusion of its safety defect investigation into the post-crash fire risk of Chevy Volts (PE11037):
Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its safety defect investigation into the potential risk of fire in Chevy Volts that have been involved in a serious crash. Opened on November 25, the agency's investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.
NHTSA remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle. NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers. However, as the reports released in conjunction with the closure of the investigation today indicate, fires following NHTSA crash tests of the vehicle and its battery components - and the innovative nature of this emerging technology - led the agency to take the unusual step of opening a safety defect investigation in the absence of data from real-world incidents.
Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. Generally all vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. However, electric vehicles have specific attributes that should be made clear to consumers, the emergency response community, and tow truck operators and storage facilities. Recognizing these considerations, NHTSA has developed interim guidance - with the assistance of the National Fire Protection Association, the Department of Energy, and others - to increase awareness and identify appropriate safety measures for these groups. The agency expects this guidance will help inform the ongoing work by NFPA, DOE, and vehicle manufacturers to educate the emergency response community, law enforcement officers, and others about electric vehicles.
For additional information on the Volt investigation and others, visit www.SaferCar.gov.