December 12, 2011
Easy Fix For Chevy Volt Fire
The problem of a Chevrolet Volt (a pluggable hybrid electric vehicle) which caught fire a few weeks after being totaled in a US government side crash test was due to a leaking coolant line from coolant that cools the battery.
The critical response to the Volt fires in the press seemed a bit over the top to me. Okay, so you trash the car in a crash test and, in a condition such that humans won't try to use it, the thing catches fire. So what?
We should be so lucky that battery safety is our biggest problem with PHEV and EV cars. As things stand, we aren't driving them because they cost so much.
On the bright side, the kinks are getting worked out and risks identified while the EVs and PHEVs are not yet in wide use. But I'd already drive one now if money was no object. Easily beats getting the latest iPhone or iPad for geek coolness.
"Okay, so you trash the car in a crash test and, in a condition such that humans won't try to use it, the thing catches fire. So what?"
Well, if the jaws of life haven't arrived yet to pry you out of it, you might care...
It was a very very long time before it caught fire, no?
I have a Prius and am pro-electric, but we should all be aware of the energy density problem. That is, as batteries climb to have the stored-energy of a tank of gas, they start to approach the same risks.
No, John, as batteries approach the stored energy of a tank of gas, they will far exceed the risks of a tank of gas. Because a tank of gas is only fuel, with no oxidizer. Which limits the rate at which that energy can be released, only as fast as oxidizer is supplied, and you can put out the fire by denying it the oxidizer. While the battery combines both in one package. It's perfectly capable of going "whoosh" or "Boom" without any outside aid, and once it starts burning, putting out the fire is much more problematic.
Unless, of course, somebody gets something like an automotive scale aluminum-air battery working. Stop for water at intervals comparable to refueling a gas powered car, every 1600 Km swap the battery, and less fire hazard than gas. That's when electric cars really become practical.
Interesting idea, Brett. Though, I think I'm looking at this as a monkey-brain "old risk" versus "new risk" thing. Surely many more cars burned up this year in gasoline fires, but we don't care, because we have processed that risk. Batteries are different, more in our heads than in absolute risk(?)
Brett, if the jaws of life take a few weeks to arrive I don't think your corpse will care about the fire.
As things stand, we aren't driving them because they cost so much.
???A Nissan Leaf would only cost $20k in California. With operational savings of $1,500 per year, no other car on the road will be as cheap to own.
A Volt is a bit more expensive, but it's driving experience is comparable to cars that cost more. The average new US car cost over $30k in 2011 - a Volt is only 3-4k more, and operational savings would eliminate that mighty quick
Actually, we're not driving them because they take a little while to ramp up...