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GM: We’ll Replace Chevrolet Volt 120-Volt Charging Units

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2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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General Motors announced yesterday that it would replace the 120-Volt charging unit provided with every Chevrolet Volt, to provide what GM spokesman Randy Fox called a "more consistent charging experience."

Back in July, we reported that some of the charging units provided in Volts were overheating, becoming too hot to touch and in one case, even giving an owner a second-degree burn.

Thicker cord

Now, after complaints from Volt owners, General Motors has agreed to swap out the unit for a beefed-up unit of the same design. Fox said upgrades to the design include a thicker cord from the unit to the wall socket.

Every 2011 or 2012 Chevy Volt built through last Friday, when the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant halted production for five weeks, will receive the new unit.

"It's not a safety recall," Fox told Reuters. "It's more of a customer satisfaction program."

Carried in car

The 120-volt charging unit, which GM often calls a “convenience charging cord," comes as standard with every Volt and is fitted into a recess under the load-bay floor.

The unit is comprised of a 120-volt domestic plug on one end, an electric charging unit in the middle, and a 16-foot cable with a J-1772 connector that plugs into the Volt's charging socket on the other.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo

It lets owners recharge the Volt's 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack from a domestic wall outlet in 10 hours or less. 

While many Volt owners leave the unit in their car for recharging en route, some remove it and keep the unit in their garage, plugged in and ready.

Frequent 120-Volt charging

Because the Volt has a smaller battery pack than all-electric cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf, owners can recharge it using a 120-Volt outlet if they do so at night--meaning they aren't compelled to install a faster, dedicated 240-Volt, Level 2 charging station. 

Because of this, many Volt owners can and do regularly recharge using only their 120-Volt charging unit. 

As a consequence, GM's decision to replace the 11,000 or so 120-volt charging cables already shipped with Volts is a smart one, especially given the Chevrolet Volt’s recent poor press

Structural enhancements to fit to Chevy Volt electric car to avoid post-crash battery-pack fires.

Structural enhancements to fit to Chevy Volt electric car to avoid post-crash battery-pack fires.

Enlarge Photo

If you’re a Volt owner, expect to be contacted by Chevrolet in the coming weeks about exchanging your 120-volt charging unit.

In most cases, GM expects the exchange to happen at the same time the dealer fits additional reinforcements to the battery pack, to protect it better in the event of a major impact.

Dealers started taking appointments for that update this past Monday; it applies to Volts built from 2010 through December 2011.

Third update

While the Volt is at the dealer for the battery reinforcements and to have its charging unit swapped out, dealers will also check the mounting of the steering wheel airbag, to eliminate potential squeaks and rattles to resolve a third customer-satisfaction issue

Fox stressed that the airbag is properly installed and functions correctly, and that all Volts are safe to drive. He said dealers will inspect the fasteners and replace them if needed to eliminate cabin noise.

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Comments (9)
  1. Guess the ipad3 is not the only thing to hot to handle.
     
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  2. Wow! They just keep coming. Are you sure this is GM and not Microsoft? I am still working to get all the kinks out of my Windows XP. If I bought a Volt, how long will it take me to get all the kinks out of it? I hope the Spark isn't plagued like this, but we will know that now will we?
     
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  3. Don't you just love the GM PR : "To give the owners a more consistent charging experience." GM pays people big bucks to invent euphemisms like that. Real reason is that some of those second degree burn victims will notify the Feds, and that would be a guaranteed recall, despite the soothing words from GM.
     
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  4. In the words of Ronnie's writers: "There you go again!"

    Did you read the article? It says "in one case, even giving an owner a second-degree burn." How did one case become "victims"?

    The problem is not that the cord was too small, it _is_ rated for the current after all, but the people who plugged it into a 30 year old worn out, or corroded outlet, thus causing a high resistance heater rather than a decent connection. The owner's manual has a warning on page 9-55: "a worn or damaged AC outlet may cause burns or start a fire". People that don't read the instructions and warnings don't have a leg to stand on in court... You can read the O/M here:
    http://www.chevrolet.com/assets/pdf/owners/manuals/2011/2011_chevrolet_volt_owners.pdf
     
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  5. @Volt Owner: Really?

    I'm deeply touched by your optimism in assuming that every person who ever plugs in a Volt will read the manual first and check the specs of the plug, and the circuitry behind it, before they do so.

    Modern car companies have to plan for the whole range of circumstances, including edge cases. Anything that injures even ONE person who uses it as designed--albeit in a plug that may have been invisibly out of spec if they didn't do the investigation referred to on Page 9-55 of the owner's manual--is a product that needs to be redesigned.
     
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  6. How is Volt's plug out of spec? Was the heat generated at the plug or the contacting surface between the plug and wall plug? I can tell you the heat is from the contact surface. Take a typical household heater and plug in the wall for about 2 hours or longer, unplug and feel the temperature of the plug. It will burn your finger. That is the issue. GM can NOT strees this enough. What GM should have done is better education. A typical household 120V is NOT rate at 15A steady state. It is 15A at "peak" load. An EV usage should be derated for it. GM's charger does have a lower current setting for it. An owner should install a brand new wall plug to alleviate that problem.
     
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  7. It seems like a pretty quick and easy engineering calculation to get the wire gauge right the FIRST time - this isn't rocket science. It's unfortunate American car companies constantly make mistakes like this, it's embarrassing.
     
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  8. What's really too bad is that the GM engineers only had time to review a vendor's (Lear) design after the car went to market. The only thing that heavier gauge wire gains in this case is a better path for the heat generated by a marginal connection in a semi-worn out AC outlet, in effect acting as a heat sink. The O/M states on page 9-56 that "a grounded, dedicated, 15 amp or greater, three-prong wall plug" must be used. I used a dedicated 20 amp socket for months in the heat of summer, and never had any heat issues with the cord or the plug.
     
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  9. It's too bad Lear tried to cheap out on their contract to build these fancy extension cords. Judging by all the extra components inside, they hired a rookie designer for this project!
     
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