I agree that gasoline powered cars are not safe. But your statistics are not relevent. The Volt hasn't been out a full production year, and there are only 0.006 *10^6 of them on the road. This is compared with 255 * 10^6 gasoline powered passenger vehicles. The real statistical comparison is by miles traveled (especially since the Volt has a much smaller range than gas powered vehicles). We don't have the numbers yet to really know.
What we do know is that lithium is inherently dangerous. Not because you can have batteries that short out, but because when they do it's catastrophic (a reaction that feeds on itself). This being an Engineering blog, the conversation should be about what is being done to APPLY the technology safely. If done right, it could be much safer than gas. If done "normally" (read with management involvement, ROI, profit margin, etc.) then I wouldn't let my family near one.
If you want safe and high efficiency, get a diesel. Personally, I have a gas-electric hybrid with NiMH (probably has it's own defects).
I don't totally disagree, but I niether completely agree with your rationality. I mean, true, no tech will ever be perfect, safety is never perfect. That's why they attack the safety of these products, because it is never perfect and uneducated/uninformed people like to use the absense of perfection or the asbsense of 100% certainty as a means of escape. They did the same with the EV-1, now they intend to do the same with the Volt. My intent wasn't to downplay safety concerns with electrics, my intent was to expose the over exageration of these concerns. 3 fires, 2 had nothing to do with the car and the third was in a collision so bad that any insurer would have clasified it as totalled. Now compare that to the gasoline powered car stats stated above and tell me you are honestly concerned about the fire safety of electrics... do you really feel its appropriate to offer a buy back for the Volt over these 3 false fire examples, while not offering the buy back on the gasoline cars which are catching fire consistently every minute and a half across the US?
Look, I'm not trying to downplay safety concerns with eletrics, neither am I trying to hype the safety concerns of gasoline; I feel gas is as safe as it can be, they've done a good job, but it isn't perfect and THOUSANDS stilll die every year in car fires and explosions. When you do an honest comparison, electric is safer hands down. Yes, you have a blast wall for protection in gas cars, but that only is intended to protect from explosion and not fire... electrics cannot explode, but they can catch fire, so there is no need for a blast wall.
It is an unreasonable stretch of sincerity, to be concerned about a battery explosion when you have so much gas out there. I mean really, say I was holding a can of gasoline in one hand and say 100 D size litherium batteries in the other... which would you be more concerned about? I can tell you with 100% certainty that OSHA would be far more concerned about the gasoline, as would I.
Yes, there will be Volt mishaps. It is being sold to the general public. From previous posts I get it that 3 fires occured, two from non-battery events, and one blatant operator error in providing maintenance/repair after a collision. The Ford Pinto/Mercury Molotov was blessed by management to make do without a simple splash shield to keep gas from hitting the hot muffler in a rear-impact collision. A high revving engine, short wheelbase, short overall length equals very hot exhaust pieces. Management ran the numbers and decided that cost of a splash shield was a higher end cost of product than projected liability. Not to be outdone, Chevy had such poor quality control that when Cosworth wanted to hot rod the 1975 Vega, they spent months cherry picking the engine production line to find 2,000 suitable engines to receive the Cosworth hi-po hardware. The Vega engine had the same metalurgy as the Porsches of the day, and a radiator of unsuitable cooling capacity.
I think the fire possibility isn't really anything to worry about. I think it may have the fear of electricity stigmatism more than anything. Kind of like the fact that the gas tank was located in the bottom of pintos scare. The pinto was well before my time and I really don't understand what the scare was with pintos was. I have one and have worked on just about all the classic mustangs and they all have the top of the gas tank as the trunk floor and you can see the back of the rear seat in the trunk. 500,000 mustangs sold and seems most everyone enjoyed owning the car. Lots of cars other than the pinto where built this way. I hope the volt falls into the mustang category and not the pinto.
The comparison with a gas engine points out the inherent problems with lithium, not similarities. If there is an accident, the first thing that happens in a gas powered car is the fuel pump shuts off, denying the accident scene fuel. Where gasoline is burned we are protected by cooling systems, lots of metal, and a firewall. Nothing like that can be done for a lithium battery: in an accident not only do you get the mechanical conditions for a short and subsequent overheating INSIDE the fuel supply, but loss of cooling is also probable. Do you get an explosion proof firewall with lithium? doubtful.
A better comparison would be with a nuclear power plant. If a plant shuts down (for any reason), backup power is required to keep the core cool, or you get what happened in Japan. If the cooling system (or what powers it) is compromised you get a chain reaction (just like with lithium).
Nothing is risk free (gasoline powered cars certainly are not), but be careful not to unrealistically minimize the risks for the greater cause of "greenliness" or technology for technology's sake.
This is getting more and more blatant, they are trying everything in there power to kill any technology that can compete with fossil fuels; why not, they've been doing it for 50 years. I mean, please, if your concerned about car fires, you shouldn't be driving a on top of a 14 gallon can of gasoline. To bring to light the manipulation of the arguement, as stated in previous articles there have been 3 Volt fires reported, EVER! 2 of them did not originate from the Volt, as proven by firemen, and the 3rd was a car that was previously involved in a head on collision and was driven without inspection or service. In contrast, Here are some statistics:
Also according to the NFPA, 33 car fires are reported every hour across the country, with one person per day dying in a car fire accident in the years between 2002 and 2005.
· According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 258,000 vehicle fires in 2007 and 385 deaths. There were 1,675 injuries.
· There is a vehicle fire every 96 seconds in the United States.
So, if your a person who is overly concerned about car fires, which is more of a concern, a gasoline car or an electric car?
If your Chevy, which should you be more concerned about, the Volt or every other gas car they produce? I mean some on, Chevy gasoline car fires are responsible for hundreds of deaths per year, yet I don't see them offering to take those back at no cost to the owner...hence the manipulation. Chevy is corrupted by big oil and they will do anything, even if it defies logic and common sense, to maintain that relationship with big oil.
Thanks, Bill for your comment. It sees like with the Volt fires, as with the Toyota unintended acceleration of a few years ago, there's no attempt to place the problem reports in context. First off, anecdotal reports, real or not, take on a life of their own and are reported and rereported until it makes it seem like there's a groundswell. Not that these initial three fires didn't take place. What I'm saying is, the results of the investigations never get passed around as a follow up. It was the same thing w the Toyota, which in retrospect involved many cases of driver error. As for the GM buyback offer, that's simply good crisis PR management.
Thanks for the additional information on the active cooling systems used for Li-Ion batteries. I agree with your assessment that engineering cost is a primary negative factor when considering the system-wide distribution and utilization of EVs based on this technology.
I don't do this casually, but there is a direct correlation between these Li-ion battery systems and Fission reactors: both require ACTIVE cooling. However, in the case of Fission reactors, destruction of the active cooling system is very rare and only occurs after secondary and tertiary redundant fail-safe systems have been compromised or damaged (as in the cases of TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima). Without data mining into the type of accident, a search estimates around 6 million vehicle collisions per year in the US -- each an event in which the active cooling system of an EV could be damaged or compromised.
The NHTSA has released a statement dated Nov 25, 2011 (http://goo.gl/Aww3m) describing the original fire that resulted more than three (3) weeks after a test crash in May 2011 and two (2) additional fires from tests recently performed on November 17 and 18, 2011. These recent tests employed protocols to specifically damage the battery cooling system. No roadway fires have been reported from the 6,000 Volts currently in use by customers. Multiply the number of sold Volts by 1000 and crash each one of them every year and it is not difficult for the risk analysis folks to set off some read flags.
My first vehicle at 16 was my family's 1971 Ford Pinto. My wife was involved in a near-fatal accident as a college student while riding in a Ford Pinto and investigators said she could thank the same torrential rain storm that caused the accident for preventing the ignition of the fuel that covered her and the car. We must continue to demand that accurate science and sound engineering practices win out over political and branding pressures in the development of Li-Ion EV technology.
Rob: Various news reports have mentioned the Volt in conjunction with three fires (see Brian Fuller's story at http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=236254), but two appear to have been unrelated to the Volt. So at this point, it's fair to say there's definitely no statistical significance. As for how the fires get started: Yes, impact can potentially play a role if the casing around the cells is dented, but we don't know if it played a role in this case.
I don't think these issues are widespread and from what I've read, there were extenuating circumstances with a least a couple of the fires that might lead you to believe there was another cause--not the lithium ion battery. I think Chevy is offering the buy-back program to uphold their brand image and their commitment to the Volt and be seen as proactive, rather than reactive. The number of vehicles they're likely to buy back will pale in comparison to the upside of making consumers comfortable with their choice.
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