This isn’t going to be Volt fire news week – we think – but we’d be remiss to not report that last week’s North Carolina fire investigation preliminarily cleared the Volt as being the source.

The blaze that cost an estimated $800,000 damage to a $1.5 million home in Mooresville is believed to have begun somewhere in the three-bay garage, but not with the Volt.

According to GreenCarReports, which interviewed Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Garland Cloer, after clearing debris, and pulling the Volt out, the car was found to lack evidence as being the ignition source.

View of Mooresville, N.C., house that burned with a Volt in the garage.

Cloer said, "seats, carpets, even rubber hoses, are not usually left intact" when a fire begins in a car in question. Instead, the fire spread to the Volt, just as a fire did to a Volt in Connecticut.

So, this means while EVs are still being scrutinized because they are new, thus far no plugged-in and charging Chevrolet Volts have been responsible for igniting their systems in the car.

Cloer did repeatedly stress that his comments are "pure unscientific observation" based on his professional experience. He is still waiting for data from the Volt’s internal and external Siemens charging hardware.

Not ruled out therefore, is that the Volt might still have played a role in an electrical fire in which the external wiring leading to the Volt was overloaded.

Until the fire marshal says otherwise, it remains possible that the total circuit load in the house wiring or, while unlikely, the Siemens 240-volt charger may have been the ignition source.

Other culprits at the scene were items including toy electric plug-in cars, miscellaneous household items, gasoline, a 2007 Nissan Armada, and other hazardous materials.

Since chemicals were on site, they too are not ruled out until the final determination is made.

Although how the fire started is still unknown, Cloer said the pattern left by the fire indicates it began elsewhere and eventually engulfed the Volt and Armada.

"Fires take certain patterns," Cloer said, adding that in many cases a "V-shaped pattern that spreads out from the point of origin" can be seen from the points where the flames burned the hottest. The point of origin is evident, and the belief at this point is fire spread outward from there.

GM was also able to remove the Volt's “black box” or vehicle interface control module. Engineers expect to learn how much fuel was left in the tank, battery state of charge, charging behavior leading to the fire, and any data that could indicate the irregularity.

Last week someone said on GM-Volt that the Volt would have “known” something was wrong, and this is true. Unknown is how GM might use this kind of data to improve future responses to emergencies.

As reported yesterday, electric vehicles are being investigated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration after a NHTSA-contracted side-impact crash test compromised a Volt’s battery, and it was left with a partial charge to later ignite an electrical fire.

Aside from the one crashed Volt, no others have been known to be the source of a fire. Further, the NHTSA fire was apparently preventable, as the battery was not discharged after the crash test according to GM’s procedures.

Thus far, no other electric production vehicles have been involved in fires, but as more and more of them come on the road, this may only be a matter of time.

Not that we or GM is wishing it, but can you think of the headlines when a “Leaf fire” eventually happens.

But GM is not even going there. In an interview yesterday, GM Spokesman Rob Peterson said the focus is not on electric vehicles as a possible incendiary source, but on ensuring they’ve been made safe as can be.

Citing a talk he had with a GM engineer whose job it is to find potential failure points, the general public always winds up doing a better job of finding ways to destroy things than he does.

While there is no such thing as “foolproof,” GM did a thorough job, and no one is saying the Volt or any other electrical car is under-engineered or a fire hazard. That distinction still belongs to internal combustion vehicles, which also are becoming safer year by year.


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