Statement of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration On General Motors' Plan to Address Potential Fire Risk in Chevy Volts
January 5, 2012
Contact: Lynda Tran, 202-366-9550
WASHINGTON, DC — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued the following statement today on the plan announced by General Motors for addressing the potential risk of fire in Chevy Volts that have been involved in a serious crash:
As the primary safety agency tasked with reducing fatalities and injuries on our nation’s roadways, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is deeply committed to saving lives and protecting motorists. That’s why over the past four decades, NHTSA has built a robust, data-driven program to identify, assess, and help address potential safety defects in the more than 254 million registered vehicles in the United States.
In keeping with the agency’s core safety mission, NHTSA opened a safety defect investigation into the potential risk of fire in Chevy Volts that have been involved in a serious crash on November 25. The agency has not concluded that investigation and is continuing to gather and assess information on the post-crash fire risk in these vehicles.
Based on the work that NHTSA has already completed — under the observation of representatives of General Motors and in close consultation and collaboration with experts from the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense — it appears that both battery intrusion and coolant leakage must be present to enable post-crash fire in the Volt. While the agency remains unaware of any fires from real-world crashes involving the Volt, each of the known cases of fire resulting from laboratory crash tests included these conditions.
NHTSA crashed a Chevy Volt retrofitted with GM’s newly designed steel reinforcement device in a side-pole impact test on December 22. The results of that crash test showed no intrusion into the vehicle’s battery compartment, and no coolant leakage was apparent. As a precaution, NHTSA has monitored the crashed vehicle since the test and will continue to do so for one more week. However, the preliminary results of the crash test indicate the remedy proposed by General Motors today should address the issue of battery intrusion.
In the coming weeks, NHTSA will complete the analysis of the overall research undertaken since the initial fire incident in June. The agency will make public its conclusions and any corresponding implications for consumers, the emergency response community, and tow truck operators and storage facility managers upon closure of the safety defect investigation.
For additional information on the Volt investigation and others, visit www.SaferCar.gov.