If you ignore the price, we’re all in favour of the range extender hybrid option as the most elegant solution to electric cars. But new technology is not without its problems, as GM are finding out with the Chevy Volt.
Earlier this year a Chevy Volt caught fire at a facility owned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the States, three weeks after it had been crash tested. That lead to further test by the NHTSA, and in the second subsequent test they conducted they saw an increase in battery temperature and a few hours later, when the battery was rotated, it began to smoke and spark.
To be fair to GM – and all other companies fitting banks of lithium ion batteries – the tests conducted went beyond the penetration levels mandatory product testing requires, but it’s a concern nonetheless.
As a result of these test, GM has offered to buy back any Chevy Volts already sold, offer loan cars to Volt owners until the situation is clarified and are looking at redesigning the batteries, which are made by LG in South Korea.
As far as we know there have been no fires reported due to lithium battery penetration in accidents, and GM do say that post-crash protocols should stop any subsequent problems with battery damage. However, they are bending over backwards to make sure there are no dark clouds hanging over the safety of battery powered cars.
That means, for now, the debut of Europe’s version of the Volt – the Opel Ampera and Vauxhall Ampera – will be put on hold until GM and the US authorities reach a conclusion over the battery fire issue.