Advanced Batteries Chevy Volt Takes a Dive – for Safety!

Published on August 31st, 2009 | by Jo Borras

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Chevy Volt Takes a Dive – for Safety!

Chevy Volt

What would happen if your Chevy Volt’s battery pack got wet during a carwash?  What if you tried to drive it through a foot of standing water after a rainstorm?  What would happen if you lost control of your Chevy Volt and drove it into a canal?

Water and electricity do not go hand-in-hand, exactly, and despite the excitement and energy surrounding Chevy’s upcoming Volt EV, a number of people are still asking questions about the basic safety of the Volt’s powerful batteries.

GM took those concerns to heart, and released some rare “behind-the-scenes” commentary on the car’s underwater testing on GM’s VoltAge blog.

GM’s blog quotes Lance Turner, the lead engineer in the Volt’s battery lab, who explains that “the (Volt’s) battery, although not hermetically sealed, sealed to be maximally waterproof.  Special attention is given to the connection between the high voltage lines coming out of the front of the pack to the inverter, and these are sealed especially well.”

In addition to being sealed “extra tight”, Turner explains some interesting new technology already in use on the prototype Volt battery packs that actually detects water seepage, allowing it to shut itself down in the event water is detected.

Technical details are scarce, but Turner describes testing the device, below.

Once the car was in, it was turned on and the seawater was gradually added. There was an extensive system of monitors including current detectors placed over test dummies in the seats, and noxious gas detectors.

As soon as the water level reached the battery, it shut down. There were some crackles and pops sounds, but in the end no significant current flowed into the dummies.

GM also shared some early test footage of the pre-production Volt IVer prototypes going through the company’s “universal water chamber”, which tests against leaks in a number of real-world “worst case scenario” rain and water conditions.  If there are any problems found here, they’ll be fixed before the first Volt reaches customer hands.

SourceGM-VoltAge blog.




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About the Author

I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the Important Media network. You can find me on Twitter, Skype (jo.borras) or Google+.



  • Steve Shurts

    If Chevrolet can’t make the Volt so that you can drive it in the rain, they are complete morons and fit right in with all other government programs. However, my concern would be the combination of a crash and water. By now, we all know (or, at least should now) that Lithium and water don’t mix – well, they do mix but the results are often quite explosive.

    What would happen if a Volt was in a crash which compromised the integrity of the battery case(s) and then the vehicle was exposed to water? It might well blow up leaving a large hole where the crash victims should have been found. Spraying the vehicle in a high-tech car wash will do little to test the cars ability to withstand such an accident…

  • Steve Shurts

    If Chevrolet can’t make the Volt so that you can drive it in the rain, they are complete morons and fit right in with all other government programs. However, my concern would be the combination of a crash and water. By now, we all know (or, at least should now) that Lithium and water don’t mix – well, they do mix but the results are often quite explosive.

    What would happen if a Volt was in a crash which compromised the integrity of the battery case(s) and then the vehicle was exposed to water? It might well blow up leaving a large hole where the crash victims should have been found. Spraying the vehicle in a high-tech car wash will do little to test the cars ability to withstand such an accident…

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