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David Zax

A View from David Zax

The Chevy Volt Is Safe

(Told you so.)

  • January 26, 2012

Back in November, the Internet was in a flurry about a fire that had engulfed a Chevy Volt that had undergone a particularly aggressive crash test, and then had been set aside on a lot without following GM’s battery-draining protocol. Two other fires later occurred in relation to other safety tests. Though the news seemed to give fodder to EV skeptics and other friends of the fossil fuel industry, the fact of the matter was that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it had no reason to believe the Volt was “at a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.” I called the whole thing a tempest in a teapot.

And not to say I told you so, but I told you so. The Associated Press reports that the government has concluded its safety investigation into the Volt, concluding that, indeed, “the Volt and other electric cars don’t pose a greater fire risk than gasoline-powered cars.” In other words, the NHTSA has affirmed its confidence in the car, after studying the Volt for months. If there are any skeptics out there still, it’s time to put their skepticism to rest (or find some other basis for their attacks on EVs; this fellow seems to think rants about “Socialist progressives who don’t understand anything about economics” is about as rhetorically sound as calling the car the “Volt Fire Trap”).

Still, under the theory that it’s better safe than sorry, GM announced earlier in the month its intention to fortify 12,000 existing Volts with steel plates that would shield batteries during crashes like the ones that resulted in the crash-test fires. GM’s offering these improvements for free, even though NHTSA didn’t demand a recall itself.

The Volt is shaping up to be something of a critical success, but a commercial disappointment. The car has racked up a bunch of awards and favorable reviews. But sales have been a little lackluster–to such a degree that the site 24/7 WallSt.com declared it one of the worst product flops of 2011. (It seems fairly ridiculous to lump the Volt in with Netflix’s surreal and swiftly-aborted Qwikster, but the author did so.) It hasn’t been all bad news for the Volt of late; the New York Times recently reported that the U.S. Embassy in France was adding a few to the lineup, promoting the EV brand abroad and joining Obama’s call to “green” the federal government.

“We have confidence in the cars,” said an embassy official. So do I, and so should you.

Here, via Chevrolet’s YouTube channel, a recent video introducing the Volt and explaining how it works.

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