Skip to comments.GM Lithium Battery Explosion Warrants Unbiased Investigation (Updated)
Posted on 04/12/2012 12:23:44 PM PDT by jazusamo
General Motors has been quick to allay concerns that the Chevy Volt had anything to do with an explosion at a testing facility that appears to have injured five workers, one possibly seriously. The explosion has been attributed to gases from a lithium-based prototype battery being developed at GM's tech center. While the incident should not serve as an indictment against the Volt, concerns about volatile lithium-ion batteries are legitimate.
Initial reports on the accident vary as to the severity of the injuries to workers with some sources describing "life threatening" injuries to one woman and others stating that none of the injuries are serious. The primary concern at this stage should be for the recovery of any injured persons. Subsequent investigations and reports should not be tainted by political motivations from either side of the spectrum. Considering that the Chevy Volt has been a lightning rod for critics and proponents alike, it is likely that attention from the mishap, which has been classified as an industrial accident, will be politically charged.
Plug-in, lithium-ion battery powered cars may have a major role to play in America's attempt to develop alternate powered vehicles. Industrial accidents are both unfortunate and inevitable and GM is doing what is expected by developing and testing the new technologies. However, it is arrogant to assume that most of us will be driving electric vehicles 30 years from now while ignoring viable options. It is also reasonable to question whether or not the science, in its present stage, should be forced upon the driving public at the taxpayers' expense.
The shortcomings and dangers of any new technology should be adequately addressed without political diversions. The responsibility to explore both the costs and benefits increases dramatically when the technology is subsidized by the American taxpayer to the tune of billions of dollars. And the GM battery explosion now exemplifies that the safety of both workers and motorists should be center stage.
One of the first stories to hit on the internet regarding the explosion proclaimed that the accident has already become an " election year story." Strange, considering that the many reports I read were clear on the fact that the Volt was not involved and I didn't see any pieces blaming the Volt for the accident. TV networks also seem to be ignoring the story, perhaps due to fear of angering a major paid endorser in GM. It is a shame that such an important topic can not be debated and made public without monetary and political influences.
The facts remain that wealthy purchasers of EVs are slated to receive billions of dollars in tax subsidies. Is this really the best way for America to try and obtain energy independence? Given the high price of gas a year and a half after the greatly hyped rollout of the Chevy Volt, we should be examining exactly what the taxpayer funding is contributing to. We should be analyzing specifics regarding how many EVs are expected to be on the roads five years from now and what the true impact on oil dependence would be, as well as what the ultimate cost to taxpayers is. The recent battery explosion at GM now, again, rightly raises the safety questions for the technology.
I have criticized proponents for being naïve in thinking that vehicles like the Volt are doing much to help the environment or oil independence. Perhaps it is my turn to be naïve in believing that TV news networks, journalists and politicians can possibly give an unbiased depiction of the pros and cons of spending billions in tax subsidies to promote a technology that has such a huge political and monetary foundation.
Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.
Update: A GM representative has confirmed that no injuries are "life-threatening." A prototype battery for an undisclosed future vehicle was charged to 150% of capacity (not a "real world" scenario) and an external ignition source ignited gases emitted. No supplier for the battery was named; I'm guessing it was A123, future supplier of Chevy Spark battery.
You can’t charge batteries more than 100% of their capacity.
When they are overcharged, they start gassing and may lead to an explosion.
It also shortens the life of the battery even if it doesn’t lead to an explosion.
I should write their press release:
GM management, which you know you can trust considering that a slim majority of Americans voted the new GM management into office in 2008, wants to assure our voters and our few remaining customers that this explosion does not represent a risk to our dozens of loyal Volt owners. While the Volt frequently spontaneously bursts into flame and burns homes down, it has never exploded or blown up a home.
The batteries in this explosion are planned for the new generation Volt, which will be released after our management team is re-elected in November 2012, so current owners have nothing to worry about.
I hear you. In a lab to attempt to charge a battery to 150% of capacity seems strange even if it’s some type of new prototype battery.
Vehicle subsystems are (or should be) routinely overstress tested to determine durability and failure modes. 100% of a published spec. is never (or should never be) anywhere near the limit of catastrophic failure.
Sounds like it was an inadequately designed test that should have been run in an intrisically safe area. Either that, or one of the operators pooh poohed the regs and brought a prohibited device into the hazardous area. Just a guess.
You cant charge batteries more than 100% of their capacity>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Obama told GM they should.
When they are overcharged, they start gassing and may lead to an explosion.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Obama says this overcharging is OK, he does it every day.
It also shortens the life of the battery even if it doesnt lead to an explosion>>>>>>>>>>>>
Over 100 million Americans are waiting to see if its,” Like battery, like Obama.”
We knew Obama micromanaged GM ever since the GM bail out/bankruptcy hearing, and the secured GM bonds were confiscated from their citizen owners and redistributed sub par to the Unions.
Terrorists: use a self-exploding Volt; you don’t need to make your own bomb.
Even as a paint room foreman a certain percentage of my quality control tests were destructive tests that were well beyond what the painted surface would ever see under normal usage.
How can you have such a thing when the government runs all parties involved?
“concerns about volatile lithium-ion batteries are legitimate”...
L.O.L.!...It’s a lot more than concerns, chucklehead!...An exploding battery fire is probably a little more than a concern.
Just watch the faces on all those green environmentalist weenies as their minimal carbon footprint on wheels goes up in flames...LMAO!
Overcharging batteries to see what happens is not charging them more than 100% of their capacity.
When they are fully charged, no more energy can be stored.
It is like filling a gas can over it’s capacity. Sure you can keep pouring gas in the inlet, but it just escapes and makes a potential explosion.
All the energy is used up making explosive gasses.
They may find out what happens, but in the end they can’t get any more energy out than 100% of capacity.
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