General Motors hopes it now has dashed any safety concerns about the Chevrolet Volt’s battery catching on fire long after a collision, thanks to engineering modifications revealed Thursday.
The automaker announced enhancements to the vehicle structure and battery coolant system in the Volt that would further protect the battery from the possibility of an electrical fire occurring days or weeks after a severe crash.
Officials acknowledged the enhancements come in response to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration preliminary evaluation to examine post-severe crash battery performance.
GM recapped that 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 company indicated 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 automaker believes the structural modifications to the Volt 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.
“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,” declared Mary Barra, GM senior vice president of global product development.
The OEM mentioned that it conducted four successful crash tests between Dec. 9 and 21 of Volts with the structural enhancement.
Officials discovered the enhancements performed as intended, and 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 explained.
“There are no changes to the Volt battery pack or cell chemistry as a result of these actions,” she continued. “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.”
GM explained Volt customers will be individually notified when the modifications are available for their vehicles. The company said 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,” stated GM North America president Mark Reuss.
“We’ll live up to our commitment to make sure our customers are delighted with their purchase,” Reuss declared.
GM intends to 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.
GM thinks vehicle electrification technologies are important to future of the automotive industry, and according to officials, “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,” they added.
The automaker reiterated that 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, the company mentioned Volt owners accumulated nearly 20 million miles without an incident similar to the results in the NHTSA tests.