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Chevy Volt fires cause concern

Rick DeMeis
11/15/2011 03:22 PM EST

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BicycleBill
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
BicycleBill   11/15/2011 5:42:39 PM
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Don't bother me with the facts or any sort of investigation, we want the blaring headlines and superficial sensationalism--that's what's today's media is all about. Plus, it's the TV ratings sweeps period, so this is just the right kind of material they want.

gmorita
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
gmorita   11/15/2011 7:58:34 PM
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Bill, I disagree with your statement that a ruptured fuel line poses a greater fire hazard. Lithium battery fires a notoriously difficult to extinguish once they have started. Water or foam are the WORST things to pour on this type of fire because the lithium will tear the oxygen right out of the water molecule. Then you've got lithium AND hydrogen burning. If the lithium battery is a cobalt or manganese oxide type, then it has the fuel (lithium) and oxidizer (metal oxide) in close proximity to each other. Cobalt oxide based cathodes are especially problematic since the cobalt oxide decomposes above 175C releasing oxygen. I believe the Chevy Volt batteries use cathodes based on a manganese oxide chemistry and are therefore more stable.

rtapl123
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
rtapl123   11/24/2011 3:53:37 PM
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Well I don't agree - one of my friends was incinerated in such a fire while he was driving along.

Bert22306
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Bert22306   11/15/2011 9:11:30 PM
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Indeed, having this gymongous lithium battery in a car can't be very reassuring. My mantra in the past has been that these battery powered electrics are not the way to go, and this "safety" issue, which always draws the loudest oohs and aahs, not to mention jaw-jutting indignation, isn't even the reason. I've read recently about a new approach that makes infinitely more sense to me. Fuel cells running a mild(er) hybrid powerplant. And to take that a step further, an on-board hydrogen separator, that extracts H2 from a hydrocarbon fuel, and then sends that to the fuel cell. (I've proposed this in the past too.) The difficult problem with fuel cells has been to get high output. So, remove the piston engine from the mild hybrid, replace it with a fuel cell, and you can have a real electric vehicle without the inherent problems of an oversized, very hot, and still inadequate battery. And this should come close to doubling the efficiency of the car, compared with a piston engine carnot cycle design.

rtapl123
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
rtapl123   11/24/2011 3:55:16 PM
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I don't believe they are that big and certainly safer than driving on the road with people using their cell phones. Please put problems in perspective. EVERY DAY I have major problems with people's unsafe driving.

Code Monkey
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Code Monkey   11/15/2011 9:37:35 PM
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Why does the battery need to be "safed"? No polymer fuses? And I thought cars were using LiFePO4 these days, which don't burn up like Li polymer cells. I'm sure Chevy will work these things out. In the mean time, I will call the car "Chevy Jolt".

rogerrobie68
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
rogerrobie68   11/16/2011 8:16:28 PM
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Chevy Dolt.... for what you have to be to purchase one?

rtapl123
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
rtapl123   11/24/2011 3:56:40 PM
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Really and buying a pickup truck that wastes finite resources, doesn't protect anything that it carries and is mostly never used for its intended purpose is smarter?

Duane Benson
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Duane Benson   11/15/2011 11:54:43 PM
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Gasoline is essentially allowed to stick around despite its dangers because a) it's been around forever, and b) it's the best we've got so far. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) batteries will not likely be given the same pass where safety is concerned. That's good because I don't like the idea of difficult to extinguish lithium fires, nor the idea of accidentally getting electrocuted by my car. I would guess that there's also a toxicity issue if the battery containment is breached. On the other hand, roads and cars are really pretty hazardous systems all around. They are much safer than a decade or two or three ago, but we really need to hold all of these technologies to a single standard; not make it rougher on something just because its new.

Brian Fuller2
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Brian Fuller2   11/16/2011 12:14:48 AM
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As the guy driving one around the country for a year on the Drive for Innovation, I can say that all we've seen so far is a software glitch. And while we like a good story, we don't want to end up being THE story. One fresh report on the Mooresville fire has the origin starting away from the cars and the charging station. We are in that area in a couple of weeks and will make an effort to track down the Mooresville FD chief.

_hm
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
_hm   11/16/2011 12:26:55 AM
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Do other Hybrid vehicles also has fire issue with battery? The battery and its safety technology has long way to evolve. It may be nice topic to do research.

daleste
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
daleste   11/16/2011 2:12:55 AM
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Just when the new technology is starting to take off, leave it to the press to try to stop it. This seems like a non-story to me. One caught on fire after being crashed and a garage with a Volt in it caught on fire. The only take away is make sure the battery isn't damaged after an accident. Not unlike a gas tank.

rogerrobie68
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
rogerrobie68   11/16/2011 8:13:36 PM
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Take off, Lollerz..... Volt is the wrong direction

Etmax
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Etmax   11/23/2011 2:24:58 PM
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Ford Motor company in the late 80's decided to make fuel tanks out of plastic. They didn't make them conductive so static electricity was a big issue and caused a few tank explosions. Everything has its problems, it's how we deal with them that matters

Headhunter
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Headhunter   11/16/2011 1:37:33 PM
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Read an article equating these fires with the failure of government; GM=Government Motors, etc. Have a feeling these fires will take on urban myth proportions for those pushing for the Keystone pipeline. On the other hand, I've yet to hear of a single Tesla fire; my gut feel is that with anything completely new, there may be some design gremlins. Does that equate to the breakdown of free society and prove the US is a doomed socialist state? Maybe not . . . quite possibly a problem that can be solved with the inclusion of a dry powder fire extinguisher and a term life policy in purchase price.

Quickbadger
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Quickbadger   11/16/2011 3:23:20 PM
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The media is a bit lazy and likes to rely on templates. Just switch "EV1" with "Volt" and you have a new story! I'm not an EV fan in its current state. But to be fair, much of the EV1 bad press was not due to insurmountable failures of the EV1. Some of it had nothing to do with the EV1.

NielV
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
NielV   11/16/2011 6:16:51 PM
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GM is switching over to A123 LiFePO4 cells, as was recently reported in the news. Most others I believe still use traditional Li-based cells. LiFePO4 can be considered completely safe, mainly because of no lithium metal plating (terminal voltage is too low), venting gas is at a low temperature, and the chemistry breakdown only above 600 degrees C where as the others are around 200 to 400. You can see petrol leak and plug it. Petrol liquid also does not burn, only vapour. With a dry battery you can not see/evaluate the risk. The EV1 failed because an oil company purchased the patent for the battery pack and there was no alternative (coming from a friend that visited the factory).

rogerrobie68
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
rogerrobie68   11/16/2011 8:12:26 PM
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No alternative? bollocks...

p_g
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
p_g   11/17/2011 10:31:16 AM
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This reminded me of a scene from movie iRobot where when Will Smith pulls the gasoline bike out and Bridget Moynahan says "you know gasoline can catches fire"

Etmax
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Etmax   11/23/2011 2:28:45 PM
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Whether that story is true or not, it highlights an interesting issue with patents. I reckon patent law should change to automatically remove the protection if the patent isn't used within a couple of years.

lmatteini
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
lmatteini   11/17/2011 4:27:20 PM
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Just a comment about proper grounding: that's a good thing in itself, but I dare to say that (most probably) unreliable grounding hasn't been the cause for the above mentioned fire. If a part fails, overheating and igniting the rest of the device (as well as the rest of the garage), proper grounding alone can't help. So, besides optimal grounding, good wirings, a residual-current device, etc., I won't put much hype on an interesting feature, as if it were to always save from fires(...) Gasoline is a concern? Maybe we should rethink on how to make better diesel engines, while the *long* transition to EV is developing. In that case fuel won't be a worry after a crash, beside environmental matters(...)

Navelpluis
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Navelpluis   11/18/2011 10:03:24 AM
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When I see the wooden framed housing and the method of including flex wires in wooden walls I always get the shivers. (There is a series on TV about rebuilding homes in the US, forgot the name) Your current is twice ours (We are on a 240V grid) and even then currents can go to 16A here. Everybody with such a car must understand that charging it will consume a HUGE amount of current to be able to quickly refuel your car. Therefore I directly had the feeling that the electrical system in the garage must be the case: Cell charge is very well managed. We have an enormous problem with illegal cannabis grow sites. They bridge their mains fuses with aluminium foil (DONT TRY THIS AT HOME ;-) hence, much of those burn down due to electric shortage or overload. And I am aways happy when I hear such a story ;-)

Bert22306
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Bert22306   11/18/2011 8:44:33 PM
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Parenthetically: In truth, the US electric power standard for homes is more like it used to be previously, in many countries of continental Europe. Until Europe went 230/240V throughout the house, ca. mid to late 1960s. Which means, it's true that the common wall socket is 115 VAC in the US, but that does not apply to heavy appliances. Electric stoves and ovens, clothes driers, AC and heating, water heaters, and presumably even the hybrid car socket in the garage, are 230 VAC in US homes. (E.g., we have 230VAC available in our garage.) So I don't think the max currents encountered here and in Europe are actually all that different.

Etmax
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Etmax   11/23/2011 2:32:08 PM
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That's interesting, but I wonder what we will all do when fast charge batteries come out that can be fully charged in 5-10 minutes?? I think I see the smoke signals on the horizon :-)

Bert22306
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
Bert22306   11/23/2011 7:49:39 PM
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True. Any super fast charge battery will require super high current from the power grid. Which is not all good, because it drives up the peak loads required of generating plants. Never mind how to get this huge current to homes. Secondly, the fast charge batteries don't hold more charge, so the range issue is still with us. Obviously, on a road trip, a 10 minute "gas station" visit every 60 miles (or less) is better than a 4 hour "fuel stop." But I don't think a lot of drivers would welcome that way of traveling. Need something much better. Fuel cells in a "hybrid" fuel cell plus mild(ish) hybrid size battery. To give the short power spurts needed. And extract H2 from hydrocarbon fuel, on board.

katgod
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
katgod   11/19/2011 2:13:11 AM
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I am going to agree with BicycleBill and say that this story is garbage. If you take any high energy battery that is fully charged and then damage it there is a good chance you can generate a fire, so what. If you crash a battery powered car such that the batteries are damaged then you need to make sure that the battery gets discharged in a controlled manner. If there are no good tools for this then someone needs to get busy and make them. The analogy I like is, what would you do if the gas tank of a standard car been damaged such that it had a small leak in it, would you then put it in your garage and wait to see what happened?

rosekcmr
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
rosekcmr   11/28/2011 2:06:29 PM
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Wow, some of you guys really take the cake! I've worked on/around high voltage, large-cell Li+ batteries for the past 10 years (these are the very energetic kind - no special materials) and we had 2 incidents. Both of those incidents were caused by human error which was caused by a cumbersome installation procedure. In both cases the reacation(s) were highly localized to a few cells and quickly extinguished. GM is exactly correct that the batteries that were part of the crash test were not 'safed', i.e. - discharging the pack. What some of you gentelmen are missing is that you are working to a double-standard; gasoline=good/safe while batteries=bad/dangerous. Such inanity! Any energy-dense source has imbedded hazards that must be managed. And I guess having large quantities of pure hydrogen + gasoline/diesel in a vehicle is nothing to be too worried about, eh? Please! Gasoline and/or diesel hybrids are an excellent choice to bridge the time span required to full electric vehicles that don't have the range anxiety that seems to scare most people.

daleste
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re: Chevy Volt fires cause concern
daleste   11/29/2011 2:01:43 AM
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Good comment @rosekgiz. The public needs to be aware that any fuel used to propel their vehicle can become unsafe. Gasoline or batteries, you need to make sure that after an incident, it is checked. It's obvious when there is a fuel leak, but batteries need to be inspected for damage.

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