NHTSA closes Chevy Volt fire-safety investigation

By KBB.com Editors on January 23, 2012 11:47 AM
Chevy Volt

After seven weeks of looking into "the potential risk of fires in Chevrolet Volts that have been involved in a serious crash," the National Highway Transportation Safety  Administration has closed its investigation and fully vindicated the relative safety of Chevrolet's groundbreaking extended-range EV. Its formal statement on the matter noted "the agency's investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists." It went on to state that it "remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle." GM said that conclusion was consistent with the results of it own extensive internal testing and assessment. NHTSA further noted that "based on the available data, it does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles."

The investigation began last November after several fires occurred following - in one case by several weeks - side-impact crash tests NHTSA had performed on the Volt and its battery components back in July. Earlier this year, GM voluntarily elected to implement an upgrade on the Volt that further reinforced the existing structure surrounding its battery pack and added a sensor to the battery coolant reservoir to monitor the fluid level as well as a supplemental bracket that prevents an accidental overfill from occurring. Those enhancements also earned praise from NHTSA, which concurred that "the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts."

In a separate statement, General Motors said that it remains proud of the Volt and the technological innovation it represents - including having earned five-star safety ratings from NHTSA and Top Safety Pick honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). "We appreciate the confidence our Volt customers continued to provide during the investigation. Our overriding commitment will always be to provide our customers with the best ownership experience and peace of mind in the industry and we're focused on delivering that every day."