Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wringing Bugs Out of Electric Vehicles

The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf are the first wide-production scale electric vehicles in the hopes of spurring the development of an electric-powered infrastructure. The rollout is not without troubles, and both GM and Nissan are looking at some problems with both of their vehicles.

Nissan has carried out a voluntary recall to deal with an electronic bug that prevents the car from restarting once it is shut down. That's a minor inconvenience compared with the problem that GM is hoping to sort out in coming weeks and months.

GM investigators are combing through the wreckage of a home in Connecticut where an owner of a home-built electric vehicle and the family's Chevy Volt caught fire and reduced the garage to rubble. The problem may not be traced back to the Volt, but the Volt apparently reignited some time after the original fire was put out. That's a serious problem.

Now, it is possible that the original fire had nothing to do with the Volt, and it was simply incidental to the original fire. It could have been due to electrical problems with wiring in the garage, the other electric vehicle, or a combination of factors. However, no one quite knows why the Volt reignited, and that's where GM is going to be focusing its attention.

If anything, the situation with the Volt highlights the need for proper electric hookups and the potentially dangerous situation that can occur if someone doesn't properly install the high capacity chargers - fires that can destroy property or even injury or loss of life. The family in Connecticut was saved because of a firebreak between the attached garage and the residential portion of the home.

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