De-powered: GM’s Chevy Volt fire begs serious questions
Shouldn’t there have always been a de-powering protocol?
I would have no problem buying a Chevy Volt today — if it were cheaper — despite the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s formal investigation into Volt fire risk after an accident (more). I honestly don’t believe the Volt is a serious fire risk, but I do think that GM — and perhaps all EV makers — might have missed some due diligence.
But is that really cause for plug-in worries?
It is well-documented that lithium-ion batteries pose thermodynamic risk, and companies like GM have spent countless hours and dollars doing almost everything possible to mitigate and contain such risk, almost everything.
Still, it remains unclear whether GM should have foreseen whether or not some sort of de-powering protocol needed to be established before sales of the Volt began. Perhaps, GM thoroughly believed such de-powering was unnecessary. Or, maybe they just overlooked this important issue.
Regardless, today GM now offers a de-powering team that will travel to any Volt crash to de-power the battery, but is that really a very cost-effective mitigation strategy? Could this issue be resolved via technology in the future, or will someone always have to de-power the battery after the crash of a lithium-powered vehicle?
I assume there will be quality solutions to the problem of de-powering heading into the future, and such problems really should be expected. There are bugs in all new technologies. Software updates are simply part of the modern world.
Of course, it’s possible that GM simply screwed up.
Surely, such safety concerns will dissuade some from purchasing a Volt or another EV. Ironically, however, most consumers aren’t really ready to buy a plug-in vehicle yet anyway. Fortunately, when plug-in prices are no longer in need of tax credits and much cheaper, Volt fire risk will long be forgotten and battery vehicles will be as safe — if not safer — than conventional vehicles.