Two instances of Chevy Volt batteries catching fire have sparked investigations into the car’s safety. Now, the Chevy Volt investigation is focused on the vehicle’s welds.
Auto safety regulators are looking at Volt welds, said Reuters, pointing out that the issue may turn into a recall for Chevy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is trying to determine if weld changes at key points in the vehicle’s underside, near the battery pack, are apparent, said Reuters, citing an investigative memo just released publicly. The memo did not discuss a recall possibility.
Floor pan and cross member structural support near where the Volt’s 400-pound lithium-ion battery is placed will be analyzed, said Reuters. Chevy is also conducting its own investigation into the Volt’s issues and GM is considering reinforcing the case surrounding the battery, a source told Reuters.
As we reported previously, there have been two instances of Chevy Volt batteries catching fire after sitting idle for a week or longer following a crash. In both cases, the vehicles had been crash tested by the NHTSA. The fires prompted the NHTSA to launch an official investigation of the Volt. No fires have been reported by people who bought Volts.
The NHTSA began looking at the batteries following a fire at a Wisconsin garage where the agency was storing a wrecked Chevy Volt. The fire occurred this spring, three weeks after the Chevy Volt was damaged in a side-impact crash test. GM had blamed the agency for the fire, alleging the blaze occurred because the lithium-ion battery had not been deactivated properly.
The NHTSA has, since, been able to replicate the battery fire during three recent test and, while the first test, conducted on November 16, did not result in a fire, a battery pack on a second Chevy Volt caught fire a week after it was subjected to a crash test on November 17. A Volt crash tested on November 18 resulted in the emission of sparks and smoke from the battery.
Reuters said that the NHTSA has asked its test center to complete its testing “at the “earliest opportunity” and added that the agency owns five Volts, which it bought for crash tests and safety evaluations. Reuters noted that the memo did not bring into question the Volt’s integrity.
The hybrid Chevy Volt is powered by a lithium-ion battery and has an electric onboard motor that powers the vehicle when the charge runs low. The crash tests punctured the Volt battery, and leaking battery coolant could have caused the fires in the two undrained Volt batteries.
Meanwhile, GM has agreed to buy back about one dozen Chevy Volts, said GM spokesman Selim Bingol, as the government investigation continues on the “extended-range” electric car. Just “a few dozen” Volt owners have taken GM up on its offer to buy back their cars, according to Bingol. Before completing the buy back, GM is speaking to every owner to better understand their dissatisfaction and see if they can improve how owners feel about their cars. “If the only way we can make them happy is to repurchase it, then we will,” Bingol said. A few dozen other owners have taken up GM’s offer for a free loaner car while the investigation is ongoing, said spokesman Greg Martin. GM is offering its customers the purchase price of the car, including taxes and fees, and less a usage fee based on the miles the owners drove their cars, said USA Today.