GM Offers Fix to Prevent Volt Fire Risk

January 5, 2012

General Motors Co said on Thursday it has developed a proposed fix to the battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt to eliminate the risk of a fire being triggered days after a crash.

GM said it would strengthen structural protection for the 400-pound lithium-ion battery in the Volt and take other steps to prevent coolant fluid from leaking and triggering a fire.

GM has made the Volt the symbol of its determination to seize a leadership position in fuel economy and green technology, and its engineers have been racing to respond to a safety investigation by U.S. regulators since late last year.

“This remains a halo vehicle for us in technology and design,” Mark Reuss, GM’s chief of North American operations, told reporters.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a probe of the Volt’s battery pack in November. NHTSA, which has the power to review proposed safety fixes by automakers, had no immediate comment on GM’s announcement.

GM will notify Volt owners of the fixes in the coming days. Owners will be able to have Chevrolet dealerships conduct the needed repair work starting in February, the automaker said.

The repair will take two to three hours to complete, Mark Reuss, GM’s chief of North American operations, said. GM has built about 12,400 of the battery-powered Volts and sold about 8,000 of those.

Reuss said he was “optimistic” that the proposed Volt remedies would address NHTSA’s concerns.

A lithium-ion battery pack in a Volt that went through a crash test in May caught fire three weeks later at an NHTSA test facility.

In lab tests completed in late November by U.S. regulators, a second Volt pack began to smoke and throw off sparks while a third battery pack caught fire a week after a simulated crash.

The Volt’s battery is designed to provide about 40 miles of electric-powered range. The plug-in hybrid also has a gas-powered 1.4-liter engine to provide additional driving range after the battery has been drawn down.

(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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