We have seen the articles over the past several months as first one media outlet, then another would jump on the anti-EV (electric vehicle) band wagon with claims that the GM Volt battery could make your car burst into flames after an accident. We watched and waited to see what, if anything, would be the outcome of the initial test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has now published a follow-up statement.
In May 2011 while conducting typical side impact crash testing the GM Volt battery pack and coolant line were damaged during the test. Three weeks later with the vehicle in storage after the test, a fire was attributed to the damaged battery. After making the determination that the fire was caused by the battery, NHTSA sought to repeat the findings. Three more tests were conducted in November with one damaged battery causing smoke and sparks and another causing a fire one week after the test. The tests were designed to simulate a side impact and rollover.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “In similar tests on Nissan’s Leaf (sic), the vehicle’s battery survived the crash undamaged, according to two people familiar with the testing.” The article goes on to say that the LEAF battery is encased in steel (as noted in the photograph at the top of this article) and uses no coolant lines. Many have referenced the fact that Nissan’s battery pack not using an active cooling system as a bad thing. On the contrary, we think that designing a battery in such a way that it does not need additional cooling is a good thing.
As in so many other aspects of vehicle design, engineering and implementation are significant considerations in the overall performance and safety of that vehicle. Nissan’s ongoing development, testing and evaluation of electric vehicles, batteries and systems has placed them at the forefront of this technology.