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GM, NHTSA Delayed Volt Warnings To Prop Up Sales 344

Lauren Weinstein excerpts the most interesting part of a BBC story about the safety hazards associated with the Chevy Volt — specifically, the risk that its battery pack could catch fire after even a minor impact. While it might be unsurprising that GM was reluctant to shout out safety warnings that would dampen early sales of its much touted hybrid, according to the linked story the NHTSA was as well, and for the same reason: "Part of the reason for delaying the disclosure was the 'fragility of Volt sales' up until that point, according to Joan Claybrook, a former administrator at NHTSA."
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GM, NHTSA Delayed Volt Warnings To Prop Up Sales

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:13PM (#38307144)

    Can't have the Government criticizing a Government Motors product now, can we? Especially if it's GREEN!

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:16PM (#38307208)

    How does a crackpot theory like this make the front page? What's next JFK assassination theories or little green men tucked in freezers in Area 51?

    Just a little bit of professional editorial work, that's all I ask.

  • Re:Ohhhh shit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:23PM (#38307318) Journal

    Oh I know. Just like I know that nuclear power is actually relatively safe. But the fact is that electric cars (more specifically giant lithium batteries) are a technology that people are antsy about, and now there's been an accident (fully preventable if they followed the instructions of course), and a cover up. What do you think's going to happen?

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wizzerking ( 1036902 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:27PM (#38307380)
    Have you not watched Mythbusters ??? Only if a stream of gas comes out of a tank, and pools will it burn. THERE IS NO CHANCE OF AN EXPLOSION WHEN THE GAS TANK IS 1/4 OR MORE FULL Stopping thinking like hollywood, and go watch mythbusters, or get an engineering degree.
  • Electric Pinto? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dunnius ( 1298159 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:35PM (#38307504)
    Cool, another Pinto, but electric this time. I'm sure the story is overblown, but anything that stores energy is going to be a fire risk.
  • Re:Ohhhh shit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:36PM (#38307530) Journal

    Because they are something between "far off" and "impossible." Like saying "I'm glad we got rid of this wind farm, better to work on cold fusion anyways!"

  • Re:Ohhhh shit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:39PM (#38307572)

    to me it isn't so much as because it's "new" but rather because it is delayed.. in a normal car wreck if you have a fire it happens then.. not 3 weeks after the car was repaired.

    I'd agree there is zero worry if it takes a puncture of the battery pack to cause this as that should be caught in inspection before it is sent out as repaired. what does bother me is the chance of it happening with the battery pack only experiencing a physical shock with zero outside indicators of damage. I want to know the real % chances of that happening.. if it is 50% then we have a problem.. my bet though is this isn't really an issue..

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:39PM (#38307578)

    Dude, you should watch less action movies.

    Hint: in the real world, gasoline cars rarely explode when you fire a pistol at them.

    Not only that, but even shooting a full tank with tracer rounds will not make the tank explode. The heat and pressure needed to make a tank of gas explode is found more commonly in Michael Bay films than it is in an auto accident. Unless of course everyone started driving Pintos again

  • by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:44PM (#38307640)

    The summary is only referencing a BBC story. You don't get anymore mainstream than the BBC.

    Slashdot is a news aggregator, and you can't really blame them for taking headline tech stories from probably the largest news service in the world.

  • Re:Ohhhh shit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Defenestrar ( 1773808 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:08PM (#38307970)

    It's true. My gasoline-powered cars catch fire all the time.

    You are half-right, though. From what I've read the Volt's battery is supposed to be drained after a crash to ensure it can't catch fire... which must be great fun for people who are responding to the accident.

    A more pertinent question is whether the responders feel safe using the jaws of life on an electric car. Unless every emergency responder is required to learn where the various power conduits in every vehicle are located, or unless industry standardizes locations on a vehicle, you could add a bit of extra shock when you're trying to tear someone out of the car. So far there's relatively few models and most keep all of the high current stuff all under the hood, but it's not impossible that the battery will be up front with individual electric motors per wheel, or a motor in the back, or perhaps the electric heater might be located in the passenger compartment...

  • Re:Ohhhh shit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RearNakedChoke ( 1102093 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @06:04PM (#38308786)

    Call the rest of us back when someone makes an electric car that can go as far as a gas car, as fast as a gas car, and has passenger room and a sticker price and operating costs comparable to gas cars. When that happens, people will buy them, and companies will be in one quick hurry to sell them.

    Really? You want a new technology to match or beat EVERYTHING of the old tech right now, including the price? If everyone had your attitude, we'd still be using CRT TVs. The first plasma displays were ridiculously expensive and performed worse than CRTs (worse contrast ratios).

    But over time as people began to adopt them, R&D and economies of scale improved so that their performance as well as price improved. Its an iterative process fueled by the gradual increasing support of the new technology. Electric cars cannot match ICE cars now at every metric. No new tech can, cars or otherwise.

    But electric cars could easily have a place in society. Most daily driving IS short distance runs. Even most commutes are under 50 miles one way. And many households have more than 1 car. Its conceivable to own 1 electric car for the daily short runs and keep the gasoline car for the occasional long distance hauls. I think as a whole, gas consumption would be reduced significantly. I know for my situation, it would be reduced 95% at a huge cost savings.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.