IIHS Sticks By Volt Safety Rating: No Pack Issues After Crash Tests

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2011 Chevrolet Volt during IIHS crash testing

2011 Chevrolet Volt during IIHS crash testing

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Earlier this year, the public reputation of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt was changed forever after a crash-tested Volt caught fire in wrecking yard belonging to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

It didn’t matter either that the battery fire started two weeks after the original crash test, or that it was the result of a massive side-impact representing a worse-case, real-world collision: the Chevrolet Volt’s reputation was tarnished. 

But while the NHTSA discovered one of its test cars caught fire after undergoing crash testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety -- which also totaled three Chevrolet Volts in the interest of crash-safety testing -- didn’t see any Volts catch fire. 

The difference, according to EVworld.com, is that while the NHTSA managed to rupture battery coolant lines during testing, almost identical crash tests at the hands of the IIHS failed to damage the Volt’s battery pack housing or coolant pipes.  

2011 Chevrolet Volt in IIHS crash test

2011 Chevrolet Volt in IIHS crash test

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And without a ruptured coolant line or battery pack housing, the liquid coolant -- now believed to be the cause of the NHTSA crash-test fires -- couldn’t leak into the Volt’s 16 Kilowatt-hour battery pack and cause an electrical short.  

Moreover, the IIHS test-cars, which were wrecked during testing in February, remained in a fully-charged post-crash test for nearly five months before a technician from Chevrolet came to discharge their battery packs. 

It’s no wonder then, that the IIHS sticks by its own safety rating and top safety pick award for the plug-in hybrid car. 

And yet we’ve not seen much mention of the Volt’s IIHS crash test successes since, allowing many commentators with political axes to grind the chance to continue their uninformed war against Chevrolet’s plug-in hybrid. 

What do the IIHS tests tell us?  

Simply put, not every Chevrolet volt side-impact will result in a fire, and not every car with liquid battery cooling is dangerous. 

But as 2011 turns into 2012, we hope that common sense, not hysteria, prevails. 


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Comments (4)
  1. Nope! Didn't work; I'm still hysterical. I do though trust the car, I just don't trust the battery they are using. Put a different kind of battery in the car and encase it like Nissan and Ford is doing and then I will feel better and not be so hysterical.

  2. You clearly don't know what you talking about. There is NOTHING safer about the Ford and Nissan battery chemistry OR it's mounting. In the event of a crash thre is always the potential for the battery to become damaged. OEMs (including GM in th Volt) have gone to great lengths to protect the battery from damage and install electrical safety disconects and circuit breakers should short circuits occur. The "additional" tests NHTSA performed (AFTER the Volt had achieved the 5-star side impact standard I might add) were NOT among the crash tests currently mandated by FMVSS but a series of additonal tests (at still unknown speeds) that intentionally attempted to breach the battery. Maybe get all the facts before you get "hysterical"

  3. While the NHSTA and other orgs may have an influence on the consumer, their tests have no weight in a court of law, as many
    automakers have discovered. Like all Fed govt tests, they guarantee nothing and are not particularly relevant when cases come up in court. Ditto for the emissions tests that automakers must pass, but which provide zero immunity from lawsuits. Ain't
    our system wonderful? Automakers must pass these test and, in the end, it means nothing. The IRS, of course, operates the same way. Regardless of what they tell you when you call and ask them a question about taxes, you are liable if you follow their advice and it turns out (as it often does) to be not quite accurate.

  4. "Not every crash will result in a fire ..."
    That's very deceptive wording. The evidence is that you have to crash it from the side, and leave it unattended but fully charged for 5 weeks. In other words, you have to work really hard to make it burst into flames. So, "Very, very few crashes wold result in a fire, and they would be delayed by weeks" would be a more honest summary.

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