Upgrading the Volt

General Motors asks Chevy Volt owners to take cars in to dealers for repairs to better protect the vehicles’ batteries.
General Motors is advising Chevrolet Volt owners to return their electric cars to dealers for repairs that will better protect the vehicles’ batteries. The Volt has a T-shaped, 400-pound battery pack that can power the car for about 35 miles. After that, a small gasoline generator kicks in to run the electric motor.

GM’s request comes after three Volt batteries caught fire following severe side-impact crash tests. The fires occurred one to three weeks after the crashes, which caused damage to the plastic battery pack and prompted coolant to leak.

Chevy service workers will be adding a steel plate to the battery pack to allow the force of a crash to spread over a larger area, a process that will only take a few hours. Dealerships will begin the repairs in February on the 8,000 Volts currently in customers’ driveways as well as 4,000 vehicles on their way to dealer lots. The steel reinforcement will also be pre-installed on all Volts produced in the future.

In a statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it crashed a Volt with GM’s new steel safeguard in a side-pole impact test and found no signs of damage to the vehicle’s battery compartment or coolant leakage. However, as a precaution, NHTSA continues to monitor the crashed vehicle.

General Motors continues to stress that the Volt, which had its best-selling month this past December, is safe, earning a five-star government crash test rating and a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “This technology should inspire confidence and pride, not raise any concern or doubt,” said Mark Reuss, president of GM’s North American operations.