The national traffic authority in the US has launched a formal safety defect investigation into the Chevrolet Volt following two more cases of sparks and fires from crash-tested vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put the batteries of the plug-in hybrid Volt under the microscope earlier this month after crashworthiness tests in May led to a Volt setting itself on fire more than three weeks after it was crash-tested.

NHTSA tested three lithium-ion battery packs from the Volt between November 16 and 18 – in all three cases intentionally damaging the battery compartment and rupturing the vehicle’s coolant line. The first vehicle tested did not result in a fire but showed a temporary temperature increase the following day. The second Volt (tested on November 17) was monitored daily and caught fire at the testing facility seven days later. The third vehicle began to smoke and emit sparks within hours of being crash tested and rotated.

In all three instances, the Volt’s battery was impacted and rotated to simulate a real-world side-impact collision with a narrow object (like a tree or pole) followed by a rollover.

NHTSA is working with General Motors, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to assess the cause and implications of the fires.

NHTSA says it is too soon to know whether the investigation will lead to a recall of any vehicles or parts, but insists if it identifies any unreasonable risk to safety it will take immediate action to notify customers and ensure GM takes an acceptable course of action.

The authority is working with all vehicle manufacturers to ensure they have appropriate post-crash protocols for motorists, emergency services, tow truck drivers and scrap yard operators.

GM has a protocol that states the batteries of it electric vehicles should be depowered after a significant crash, although at this stage NHTSA says this is a job best left to qualified Chevrolet employees.

So far, NHTSA testing has not raised concerns about any battery-powered vehicles other than the Chevrolet Volt. It says it is not aware of any crashes that have resulted from battery-related fires in the Volt or any other vehicles powered by a lithium-ion battery.

The announcement of the investigation comes just days after the Chevrolet Volt was awarded the maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, a result that mirrored NHTSA’s own five-star rating of the Volt in June.

The Holden Volt (a rebadged version of the Chevrolet) will go on sale in Australia in the final months of 2012.

  • Mick


    • Steve the “Keyboard Hero”

      Looks like GM got their product names confused, the Volt should have been the Spark and vice versa…

  • GREG

    I think they should stop trying to be ahead. These electic hybrids are causing more issues and problems then there worth. I will never buy a hybrid or electric vehicle because My truck(s) are simple and built to last..While I know you’ll never make a 70’s truck again (please don’t you’ll screw it up) but I never had issues, nor did it crumple up like a Prius type vehicle. Honestly how can you say these vehicles are safe? the more technology you put in them the worse they get (speaking from years of automotive repair) (what happens when a Chevy volt -or Prius- hits or gets hit by an F350? The people will be killed) The solution isn’t to say to make the trucks smaller, but make the cars stronger. How many people got rear ended driving an older Impala? I bet not many as compared to cars with newer cars with crumple zones; people get crushed like a tin can and now you add extreme voltage/ amps to the mix… Sounds like a mixture for disaster.

    • Ben 10

      No… No… A crumple zone is designed to take the force of the impact so there is less of a chance of the people in the car being killed and/or seriously injured.

      • UniversityOfGoogle

        lol Greg, epitomising ignorant bogan aussies since 1970

        • Boss

          Yes he’s wrong but no need for the personal attack

          • Davo

            Have a look at the crash test on you tube between the 1959 Bel Air & 2009 Malibu.It is easily found.
            The new smaller car demolishes the 1959 model.
            There will always be those who will never be convinced.

  • anthony

    Poor GM. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. Here come all the haters and know it all keyboard warriors.

    • Steve the “Keyboard Hero”

      Yeah damned if you cars catch on fire and damned if they don’t, lol. At least I’m living up to my name, lol.

      At least they’re sticking it to Kyle Sandilands, he’s the real villan in all of this (as opposed to decades of poor management).

  • moi


  • Malcolm

    another piece of junk to get a Holden badge!!!!

  • Lazybones

    Who would have thought the battery coolant would have been a fire hazard. I don’t think the leaf needs liquid coolant for its batteries, i’m sure the’re air-cooled. So Nissan will probably be having a laugh a GM’s expense on this one.

  • Mr Gaspo

    Maybe the Volt should be renamed the Pinto… I’m sure Ford will sell them the name for $1.

  • Roadtard

    So the fires occured hours if not weeks after the simulated collisions – enough time to free passengers and attend to the wreck.

    This barely rates next to all those fire-prone Italian exotics.

    • Torque

      …and it is not common (a minority of P platers excepted) to encounter such a concentrated side impact, even rarer to roll over after such an impact. They should crash test rear impact forces from another vehicle colliding with its rear end when stationary.

  • insurance

    so the insurance rates for the volt are gonna go up? Just like airbags, replace the battery and the coolant system after any crash!

  • Carl

    Oh dear!!! and in the same week we found out that “man made” global warming is not as the greenies want us to

  • nickdl

    Well I guess this problem must be real if US Government couldn’t stop the investigation. If this happened in a Toyota Prius every single Prius, affected or not, would be forced off the road by the government and Toyota would have to refund all of their customers’ money.

  • Rick

    Let it burn

  • Snoop

    You’ll read those remarks quite often Boss.
    It appears that on this site, (by a select few) if you show any kind of support to any car that isn’t a Euro.
    You’re apparently an automatic bogan.
    You just have to laugh at the poor sod’s. Lol!

  • Frosty

    I cannot for the life of me understand why caradvice deleted my post informing them with a bit of humor that they had made a spelling error about writing fire star safety. Normally they write thanks for letting us know and we have fixed the error. Not very polite of them in this case. Maybe I will give some spy pics I got of a car destined to arrive in Australia in the coming year or so that is made here in Thailand where I am for a couple of more days to another site. I will say that caradvice has not had photos of this car and they won’t get them from me now. It’s not a pick up either.