The recent fires in a Chevrolet Volt are now thought likely to be due to the liquid that cools the batteries.
Fires broke out inside the extended-range electric car, known as the Vauxhall Ampera in the UK, after crash tests in America. The fires didn’t start at the time of the crash, but between one and three weeks later, and although investigations are still continuing, it’s thought that the coolant crystallised and created a short in the electrical system.
GM is now understood to be working on ways to strengthen the case around the battery, the coolant and the electric circuitry. It may be that Volts that are already on the roads may be recalled in order to implement the changes.
America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into the fires, which took place following a side-impact crash test in June. The car had been left outside following the test.
Following this fire, last month investigators tried to replicate the damage on other Volt batteries, one of which also caught fire, prompting the NHTSA to open an investigation into the car.
GM has said that the car is safe to drive and that no fires have occurred following real life crashes. In such a scenario, GM finds out about the crash due to its onboard communication system, and sends engineers to drain the battery fluids. This draining procedure was not carried out in the crash test, and GM didn’t advise the authorities to do so.
GM has said they will offer loan cars to Volt owners if necessary, and even buy back Volts from any owners who are afraid that their car may catch fire. So far the company has bought back around 24 Volts out of over 6,000 that are now the road. The fires are believed to be having a negative impact on sales of the Volt.
Other electric cars also have liquid coolant for the batteries, which stops the cells from overheating.