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On the market for a PHEV, seriously considering Volt, negotiated a good deal, ready to pull trigger, then saw one catching on fire in my neighborhood this weekend.

The car was not in an accident. The car died in the middle of the road, then battery caught on fire, totally destroyed the car, and burned the car parked next to it on the side too.

Anybody heard of similar things? I wonder if I should stay away from all GM electric cars, like the Bolt too? I am looking into Prius Prime now, the acceleration is very slow, but hopefully it is more safe.

Anybody can tell whether this is gen-1 or gen-2?

IMG_4191.jpg IMG_4178.jpg
 

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That looks like a gas engine fire. The first I have seen or heard about in six years since the Volt has been on the market. Then again there are something like 150,000 car fires a year. So by your logic, you would not buy a car.

But yes, get a Prius.





 

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That was a Gen 2 and arguably "less reliable" than the Gen 1. I would definitely try to find out where the fire started. I honestly haven't seen any postings about fires in the Volt being any cause for concern. I do know there was one involved in a fire after a safety crash test, but that occurred 3 weeks after the test was performed, and proper post crash procedures weren't followed according to the resulting investigation.
 

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That looks like a gas engine fire. The first I have seen or heard about in six years since the Volt has been on the market. Then again there are something like 150,000 car fires a year. So by your logic, you would not buy a car.
U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 152,300 automobile fires per year in 2006-2010. These fires caused an average of 209 civilian deaths, 764 civilian injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage.
Facts and Figures
  • Automobile fires were involved in 10% of reported U.S. fires, 6% of U.S. fire deaths.
  • On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour. These fires killed an average of four people every week.
  • Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires.
  • Collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, but these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths.
  • Only 2% of automobile fires began in fuel tanks or fuel lines, but these incidents caused 15% of the automobile fire deaths.
Source: NFPA's "Automobile Fires in the U.S.: 2006-2010 Estimates" report

Highway vehicle fires by year
http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-resear...tatistics/vehicle-fires/highway-vehicle-fires
 

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Where did this take place? Will be keen on following up on this story, often after the media departs and photos posted the investigation reveals the real story albeit in a few lines on page 6 if it gets reported at all since there are so many gas vehicle fires everyday in America.
 

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That was a Gen 2 and arguably "less reliable" than the Gen 1.
I'm not sure that is an accurate statement. Do you have numbers to back this up? I know the 2017's have had their fair share of the, "service propulsion system soon" message, but there is a service campaign out there to fix that. I don't know if that qualifies for "less reliable."
 

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It's a valid question and since I just got a 2017 Volt last week, I did a little searching. The only thing I could find was one other case where a Volt caught fire 2 weeks after a crash test which garnered a bit of publicity (tried to post a link but I don't have enough posts yet).

You stated that it was not in an accident but I wonder if it had any prior damage (previous accident)? Maybe since it was in your neighborhood, ask your neighbor for details or if the fire inspector(s) found anything?

As pointed out above, just about any car can catch fire as they are all rolling containers of stored energy. My daughter sent me the attached Snapchat just last week from our local Wawa where she was inside. Her caption was in the sense of "Oh great... what do I do now". She called asking what to do and if the car was going to blow up and I just said stay inside until the FD puts it out and it wasn't likely to blow up like in the movies. Long story short, it was put out quickly with only minor damage to the nearby pump and no injuries luckily. From a different shot, it looked like an older (possibly late 90's) Mercedes.

Mike
 

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Unless you know the exact cause of the fire it's silly to discount a car because of "I saw one on fire!".

Could have been a squirrel that the night before decided to start building a nest on the exhaust manifold....which on a Volt would only rear it's head when the battery was depleted and the engine started.

Could have been the owner topping up the oil and spilling it all over the place.

Could have been a tossed cigarette butt from a passing car 20 minutes earlier - just had a co worker lose a car to that exact situation.

Could have been a million other things neither specific to the make/model of car, nor not necessarily the fault of the vehicle itself.

Don't jump to conclusions.
 

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Although I will not claim to be any sort of expert on the subject, I'd say that this brings the total number of known Volt fires to 2. Given that GM has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 130000 (just a WAG folks, be gentle) of these cars, I'd say your odds of having a fire in a newly purchased Volt are still astronomically low (and getting lower with each unit sold). You are, of course, free to draw your own conclusions. The Prius isn't a bad vehicle, but having owned two of these cars, I'd say its safe to say that, in my opinion, you'd be happier with the Volt. Besides, the Volt isn't nearly as fugly as the Prius (again, just my opinion, so take that for what its worth).
 

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That's a Gen 2 for sure. I agree with Steverino, looks like an engine fire. That can happen on any car. I wouldn't worry about that in the slightest. Have a look at how GM does battery management on the Volt and Bolt. It is well designed, and if anything, over engineered, in a good way. Liquid heated and cooled, and every cell monitored and balanced. The packs are never trully charged to 100% capacity, nor drained to 0%. I'm sure a batttery fire is possible, but it would take a very unique set of highly unlikely events to occur to make that happen, and frankly, you've got far higher odds of getting struck by lightnining than having that occur.

I've read of one battery fire in a Gen 1, and it wasn't even the drive battery. It was the 12V AGM in the trunk, and that happened because a van rear-ended the car, and the metal van bumper sheared the top of the battery, causing a dead short, and the battery then caught fire. Again, a regular 12V battery can catch fire in any car, though unlikely.

The Prius Prime is not very comparable to a Volt. If you liked the Volt enough to negotiate a deal, I recommend going through with it. You will not be nearly as happy with a Prius. Nothing worse than buying a car you don't really like, and having to live with it. I know that all to well, lol.
 

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As others say, petroleum gasoline is far more flammable than Li-ion batteries. Not saying it isn't a battery fire, but it looks like the fire was worse at the front of that car which is where the gas engine is. The battery is towards the rear. All it takes is a fuel leak up front. The Volt has not had fire issues overall.

By the lack of damage to the rear of the car I would guess the battery was not compromised. Li-ion fires they tend to contain and let burn. I have known multiple people with cars burn up, one was from a newly installed fuel pump thst wasn't done right, another was from driving too far on a flat tire causing heat buildup that ignited the brake lines and spread to the gasoline eventually.
 

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The Volt does not have any known spontaneous fire issues. Otherwise there likely would've been a thread about it in this forum. There's a chance that could be a flood car.

The Prius Prime is a decent car, but it'll use the ICE a lot more than the Volt does. If you do a lot of highway driving, the Prime would be better since it gets better MPG. If you do more city driving and want to stay on electric as much as possible, get the Volt.
 

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The Volt does not have any known spontaneous fire issues. Otherwise there likely would've been a thread about it in this forum. There's a chance that could be a flood car.

The Prius Prime is a decent car, but it'll use the ICE a lot more than the Volt does. If you do a lot of highway driving, the Prime would be better since it gets better MPG. If you do more city driving and want to stay on electric as much as possible, get the Volt.
I wouldn't call the Prius Prime better in any respect that matters. The Volt is much quicker than the Prius which has frightenly poor acceleration. Every review that I've read says that the Volts handling is much better. The only place where the Prius is marginally better is gas MPG, but you would have to drive hundreds of miles a day before that would matter at all. The EV range on the Prius is awful, 25 miles which won't get you anywhere. The Volt really is a practical EV in local driving, yesterday after my 60 mile round trip to Needham I still had 15 miles left on the Guess-O-Meter (MPGe was 150 on that trip). Even on long trips the MPG of the Volt is so good that you would never notice the difference between the Prius and the Volt, after a certain point it just doesn't matter. In the summer months I take long day trips, up to 385 miles, and even after a trip like that the Volt only consumes about 7 gallons of gas. During the winter, when I don't travel, my snow blower uses more gas than the Volt. That's not hyperbole, it's the literal truth, I go to the gas station and put two gallons into the Volt and 2.5 into the gas can for the snow blower.
 

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I'm pretty skeptical about this, especially from someone with a single post. While the car clearly burned, the cause or location is not obvious. Engine, battery, arson, who knows? And it looks somewhat like it may have been in a front-end collision.
 

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And it looks somewhat like it may have been in a front-end collision.
It's hard to say from this photo if the front of the car on the far side is mangled, but it could be. The wing on the driver's side looks to be intact. This was a very thorough fire which looks to have started in front. All of the plastics up front are gone and the hood may have been consumed too. I'm not sure what that is above the car's normal hood profile.



The interior is trashed but that's pretty normal in any car fire. Car interiors catch fire if you look at them sideways. I see the rear plastics look to be there despite a charred look, so I'd say it definitely started in the front.



Anyway.... If gen 2 cars were fire prone in general we'd have heard about it before now.
 

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That should buff right out. Seriously, sometimes cars commit suicide. I think of all the times that Tesla's vehicles have made news when one goes up in flames, usually following a collision. As cars age they are more prone to electrical fires due to wiring insulation failure. We will probably read about more Volt fires now that the Volt has been around for 6+ years.
 

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The hood on the Volt is aluminum, so it likely melted off in an engine fire. Aluminum melts at relatively low temperatures.
 

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If that was a Volt battery fire the entire car would be a burned out shell. Based on the burn/char this extremely rare fire looks to have started up front in the gas engine bay under the front hood. Gasoline dripping on a hot engine manifold? We don't know.

Note to OP: the Bolt EV does not have a gas engine or gasoline. If you want a car that has no risk of gasoline fires, then the Bolt EV is worth a look.
 

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If it helps in the news search, that's Sunnyvale, California, just looking at the name on the T-shirt and tow trucks, and license plates.
 
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