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Chevrolet Volt to Receive Safety Enhancements

General Motors announced Thursday that it will perform structural enhancements to the Chevrolet Volt to reduce the likelihood of the battery catching fire following a severe crash. According to a press release issued by GM, the chief aim of these enhancements is to ensure driver and passenger safety by further reducing the vulnerability of the battery pack in the event of a severe collision. The enhancements will be performed both to new models at the factory and as a modification to those already on the road.

The lithium-ion battery packs in the Chevrolet Volt caught fire after being crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in late 2011. “Based on the work that NHTSA has already completed … it appears that both battery intrusion and coolant leakage must be present to enable post-crash fire in the Volt,” NHTSA said in a statement Thursday. Though no fires from real-world crashes have been reported, the agency says that both of these conditions existed when their test cars caught fire.

The structural enhancements to the Volt’s battery surround “will better distribute impact forces around the battery pack, lessening the possibility of compromising the cooling system or any battery cells,” says Car and Driver. The magazine also says that NHTSA did not follow GM’s recommended post-crash protocol of discharging the battery packs after the crash.

Additional safety enhancements to the Chevrolet Volt will include the addition of a sensor to the battery coolant system and a tamper-resistant bracket to the top of the battery coolant reservoir that GM says will help prevent the coolant reservoir from being overfilled. GM says that Volt owners will be notified when they can bring in their cars to receive the enhancements.

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