The Chevrolet Volt, a hybrid car that can use electricity as well as gas, may be prone to fires once the car has been damaged, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The NHTSA tested the Volt’s battery pack; which-if proved fire prone-would most likely be the source of the flames.
Three times from Nov. 16 to Nov. 18, the traffic safety organization damaged the battery compartment and the Volt’s coolant line. They did this to emulate what happens in a side-impact car accident.
In all three tests, the Volt’s temperature increased substantially: the first time, high heat readings were recorded just a day afterwards; the second time resulted in a fire a week later; and the third time, smoke and sparks burst from the engine only a few hours after the crash.
This conflicts with the NHTSA’s original crash-test rating that gave the Chevy Volt 5 stars.
Still, the organization said, "Chevy Volt owners whose vehicles have not been in a serious crash do not have reason for concern," according to ConsumerAffairs' website.
The NHTSA went on to claim the Volt had “incredible potential” as a popular hybrid.
General Motors, that owns Chevrolet, attempted to defend the Volt from scrutiny, which could hurt the hybrid’s sales over time.
The automaker said: “NHTSA does not believe electric vehicles are at a greater risk of fire than other vehicles… It is common sense that the different designs of electric vehicles will require different safety standards and precautions."
Regardless, the NHTSA is working with GM, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense to discover the cause behind the fires, as well as what can be done to stop them. Without that information, Chevrolet’s Volt could be a danger to consumers.
The organization said they were "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."
The NHTSA started the investigation of the Volt following several fires associated with the vehicle. First, a Volt burst into flames three weeks after being purposely damaged in a crash test in May. Next, another Volt fire broke out in October in North Carolina, causing over $800,000 in damage to the home.
Perhaps in response to recent queries, the Volt was rebranded under the Holden automaker trademark for its 2012 Australia release. It is set to launch in the last quarter of next year.