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NHTSA concludes safety defect investigation into post-crash fire risk of the Volt

20 January 2012

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded its safety defect investigation into the post-crash fire risk of Chevy Volts (PE11037). (Earlier post.)

In a written statement, NHTSA said that its investigation, opened on 25 November, has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors (earlier post) reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.

NHTSA remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle. NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers. However, as the reports released in conjunction with the closure of the investigation today indicate, fires following NHTSA crash tests of the vehicle and its battery components—and the innovative nature of this emerging technology—led the agency to take the unusual step of opening a safety defect investigation in the absence of data from real-world incidents.

Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. Generally all vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. However, electric vehicles have specific attributes that should be made clear to consumers, the emergency response community, and tow truck operators and storage facilities. Recognizing these considerations, NHTSA has developed interim guidance—with the assistance of the National Fire Protection Association, the Department of Energy, and others—to increase awareness and identify appropriate safety measures for these groups. The agency expects this guidance will help inform the ongoing work by NFPA, DOE, and vehicle manufacturers to educate the emergency response community, law enforcement officers, and others about electric vehicles.

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