U.S. closes investigation into Volt fires

@PeterDrives January 20, 2012: 5:43 PM ET
Electric cars like the Volt pose no greater risk of fire than ordinarly gasoline-powered vehicles, according to NHTSA.

Electric cars like the Volt pose no greater risk of fire than ordinarly gasoline-powered vehicles, according to NHTSA.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed its investigation into a possible fire risk in Chevrolet Volt cars after finding little risk of fires in real-world scenarios, the agency said Friday.

"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," the agency said in its statement.

The investigation had started as a result of fires that occurred one to three weeks after government side-impact crash tests. The fires were sparked after the cars had been slowly rotated as part of a post-test procedure causing battery coolant to come into contact with circuit boards. The batteries were still charged at the time.

General Motors, which makes the Volt, had announced earlier this month that it was voluntarily making changes to the cars to reduce any possible danger of battery fires. About 8,000 Volts are on the road today.

GM said it is proud of the technological innovation the Volt represents and appreciates the confidence Volt customers continued to provide it during the investigation.

As part of the changes announced earlier, GM (GM, Fortune 500) dealers will add an additional metal structure around the battery pack to more evenly distribute crash forces.

Dealers will begin doing the work in February.

GM is not calling that action a "recall." It says it's a "customer satisfaction campaign" since it was never required by NHTSA.

"We're taking these steps to provide peace of mind to our customers," Barra said.

NHTSA engineers crash-tested a Volt fitted with GM's proposed changes on Dec. 22.

The Volt has gotten high crash test scores from NHTSA as well as from the privately funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. No post-crash fires have been reported in real-world situations, according to NHTSA.

After NHTSA announced that it was investigating the fires, GM offered to lend Volt owners other GM cars to drive and even to buy back cars if owners were afraid to drive their Volts. To top of page

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