Take, for instance, just last week when the Obama Administration tried again to increase the Volt’s tax credit from $7,500 to $10,000. Pretty big increase, right?
But perhaps more controversial than the car’s generous tax credits, or the fact that GM refuses to admit it’s a flop, or that the batteries seem to have a real problem with spontaneous combustion, is the fact that even GM admits the car can be very dangerous — and it’s going to cost you.
Writing for Town Hall, Steven Smoot reports: “[T]he Department of Energy allocated $4.4 million dollars for programs to prevent fire fighters from electrocuting themselves while trying to rescue crash victims.”
Last year, the National Fire Protection Agency started a program of state level trainings focusing on how first responders can safely deal with the new problems posed by the Chevy Volt and other cars of similar design. The NFPA in a press release estimates that over 10,000 first responders have taken at least some training in dealing with the dangers of cars like the Volt.
The danger to firefighters comes in two forms: the Volt’s battery and the construction of the car itself.
“The lithium-ion used in modern electric cars are not like the old lead-acid batteries of the past. They are more powerful and, when damaged, the fluid inside can leak out, creating a short on the circuit boards that are used to control the batteries,” industry expert Gary Howell of Howell Automotive said.
“The fluid dries and crystallizes, creating a short, sometimes weeks after the damage to the battery occurred,” he adds.
And that’s how we get the aforementioned “spontaneous combustion” issues.
But what about the car’s design? Consider the following: General Motors Service Technical College actually provides instruction manuals to firefighters around the country on how to not kill themselves while saving someone from a wrecked Volt.
“Just this week, their publication on the Volt was cited by a Baltimore County, Maryland Fire Service Special Interest Bulletin,” Smoot notes. “After a bizarre paragraph extolling the virtues of the car itself, the bulletin gets down to the business of informing fire fighters of how to not kill themselves trying to rescue a crash victim.”
According to the bulletin:
There is a yellow First Responder cable “cut” tag wrapped around the low volt positive battery cable behind the fuse panel door, located on the left side of the rear compartment (see diagram on next page). This cable should be cut first to disable the vehicle safely before beginning any extrication. The cable should be cut on both sides of the label to ensure the cut cable ends do not inadvertently touch and re-energize the vehicle.
But wait! There’s more! The GM manual makes sure to warn that “cutting these cables can result in serious injury or death.” So yeah, the possibility of a firefighter dying while trying to save someone from a wrecked Volt is, apparently, very real.
“Hence the need for spending $4.4 million in taxpayer money to train firefighters across the country to protect themselves from a car that the government paid people $7,500 per unit to purchase,” Smoot writes.
Considering the all safety issues Smoot raises, along with the other reasons for why owning an electric vehicle right now might be a bad idea, is it any wonder GM can’t sell these things?