In an effort to address potential fire risks associated with the battery packs used in Chevrolet Volt electric vehicles (EVs), General Motors (GM) has changed the vehicle's structure and battery-coolant system to further protect the battery from possible electrical fires that could occur following collisions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a preliminary evaluation in November 2011 to examine ‘post-severe-crash battery performance’ following an electrical fire that ignited after a crash test on a Volt in May 2011. The NHTSA evaluation was performed to reproduce the conditions of that test and ultimately confirmed the potential for fire.
The structural modifications GM has made to the EV are designed to better safeguard the battery pack during a side collision. GM designers also added a sensor in the coolant system's reservoir that monitors coolant levels, as well as added a bracket to the top of the reservoir to help prevent coolant spillage.
GM says it conducted four successful crash tests last month. The Volts with the structural enhancement showed ‘no intrusion into the battery pack and no coolant leakage.’