The Chevrolet Volt, a hybrid electric vehicle manufactured by General Motors is under investigation due to battery concerns in recent tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In May 2011 a Volt that had been subjected by the NHTSA to a side pole impact crash test followed by a post-impact rollover, caught fire three weeks later in the test center parking lot, burning nearby vehicles. The agency concluded that the damage to the vehicle's lithium-ion battery during the crash test led to the fire.
After the fire, both Chevrolet and the NHTSA independently replicated the crash test and a subsequent vehicle rotation procedure to test for any fluid leakage, but in this first attempt they could not reproduce the conditions under which the battery pack ignited. The agency recently conducted further tests which resulted in the battery igniting at the test facility.
Since that fire incident, NHTSA has taken a number of steps to gather additional information about the potential for fire in electric vehicles involved in a crash, including working with the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense — in close coordination with experts from General Motors — to complete rigorous tests of the Volt's lithium-ion batteries.
The agency is not aware of any roadway crashes that have resulted in battery-related fires in Chevy Volts or other vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries but have decided to open a safety defect investigation of the Volt.
While it is too soon to tell whether the investigation will lead to a recall of any vehicles or parts, if NHTSA identifies an unreasonable risk to safety, the agency will take immediate action to notify consumers and ensure that GM communicates with current vehicle owners.
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