GM begins Volt battery reinforcement to prevent fires

After a preliminary NHTSA study showed a fire in a crash-tested Volt was caused by coolant leakage, GM begins a program to reinforce the Volt's battery pack.

Chevy Volt battery
The lithium-ion battery in the Chevy Volt uses liquid cooling, and runs down the center of the car. GM

After a NHTSA investigation revealed the cause of a fire in a crash-tested Chevy Volt, GM set up a program to reinforce the batteries and coolant systems for previously sold cars.

It is not a recall, but a customer satisfaction program, according to GM. The company will be contacting the approximately 8,000 Chevy Volt owners to arrange a time for the modifications.

GM will add metal brackets to the car's underbody, designed to help prevent a break in the battery casing during a side impact crash. It will also add a sensor that shows when battery coolant is low, and another bracket to prevent overfilling the coolant reservoir.

The NHTSA investigation found that the battery coolant system ruptured during its crash test. The crashed car was left on a lot, and over a period of three weeks the coolant crystallized. Current from the battery pack, which had not been drained, caused the coolant to ignite.

As stories about the crash test fire appeared in the media, GM announced a program where it would buy back Volts or give current Volt owners concerned about safety a loaner car.

Despite the investigation, the Volt earned a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. There have been no reported battery fires from Chevy Volts in real-world driving.

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.

 

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