Earlier this month, we began monitoring the story about the Chevy Volt and its lithium-ion battery bursting into flames three weeks after the car was in a crash. At that point, many thought the incident was a fluke: after all, the Volt involved was part of a national safety test and the battery had been crashed as part of an intentional accident. Its own version of a crash test dummy, right?
Well, not so fast. News reports are coming to light now that the electric car offered by Chevrolet, the Chevy Volt, may be more dangerous than previously thought. The fire erupting from the crash test battery might not be such a fluke; instead, it may be a big early warning to Volt drivers everywhere (and maybe to others who have cars with electric power via lithium ion batteries).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Friday that it was instituting an investigation into how dangerous electric cars may be after all, now that several more tests have caused concern in lithium ion battery operated Chevy Volts. From NTHSA:
However, the agency is concerned that damage to the Volt’s batteries as part of three tests that are explicitly designed to replicate real-world crash scenarios have resulted in fire. NHTSA is therefore opening a safety defect investigation of Chevy Volts, which could experience a battery-related fire following a crash. Chevy Volt owners whose vehicles have not been in a serious crash do not have reason for concern.
While it is too soon to tell whether the investigation will lead to a recall of any vehicles or parts, if NHTSA identifies an unreasonable risk to safety, the agency will take immediate action to notify consumers and ensure that GM communicates with current vehicle owners.
What About Other Electric Cars? Is This Problem Bigger Than Chevy Volts?
Right now, the focus of the federal investigation has been solely Chevy’s product. This is expanding to include other electric cars on the market.
As most experienced products liability attorneys are aware, if there is a design problem in one company’s product, there may well be a similar issue in their competitor’s product.
Which means that lithium ion battery operated vehicles may all be more dangerous than we knew – it may be that this is a much bigger safety issue than just the Chevy Volts that are out on the roads today.
Be careful out there – and if you have had an issue with your electric car, contact the dealer and if you think you may have a claim, contact an experienced products liability attorney.