General Motors said Monday it will provide a free GM loaner vehicle to any Chevrolet Volt owner who is concerned about the car’s post-crash safety and fire risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently opened an investigation into the safety of the lithium-ion batteries used in the Volt and other electric cars, like the Nissan Leaf, after a Chevy Volt caught on fire at the NHTSA test facility several weeks after the agency’s side pole crash test.
“The question is about how to deal with the battery days and weeks after a severe crash, making it a matter of interest not just for the Volt, but for our industry as we continue to advance the pursuit of electric vehicles,” Mark Reuss, president, GM North America, said in a statement.
“A vehicle loan program of this nature is well beyond the norm for a preliminary investigation, and it underlines our commitment to the vehicle and its owners,” Reuss said.
NHTSA said in its November 11 statement that there had been no other reports of fires in Chevrolet Volt cars sold to consumers and that they do not believe electric cars are at a greater risk of fire than any other vehicle. The Detroit News reports that GM has received “about 10 calls from owners since news broke of the fire risks. None have sought a replacement vehicle to date.”
NHTSA attempted to recreate the incident that caused the initial Volt battery fire, and says in its investigation summary that two of its three simulation tests “produced thermal events, including fire.”
Mary Barra, GM’s vice president for global product development, said in a conference call Monday “that it is possible the vehicles’ batteries were not ‘de-powered’ after their crash tests, which would have either reduced or eliminated the possibility of a fire,” Car and Driver reports. A battery is considered de-powered after equipment is hooked up to it and all the electricity is drained from it, the Los Angeles Times reports.
GM’s engineers will work with NHTSA to determine the cause of the fires and how to prevent them. GM hasn’t specified the length of the loaner car program, but said it will provide the free loaners until the issue is resolved. The 2012 Chevrolet Volt receives good safety scores from the federal government and insurance industry.
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