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President Obama, enthralled with electric automobiles in the near future, sees the Chevy Volt as a hot car. It is hot; so hot in fact that its batteries are catching on fire.
The government is looking into new fires involving the lithium-ion batteries in the General Motors electric cars to judge the potential and frequency of fire risk in these vehicles after crashes.
One Volt battery pack that was being monitored caught fire Nov. 24 after a government crash test, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said. It began a formal investigation of fire risk.
Obama grandly promised in his 2011 state of the union message that the United States would be “the first country to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.” He counted cumulative auto production and sales during the 5-year span.
The federal government has invested billions in research and development to improve electric vehicle batteries, all part of the attempt to reduce petroleum use. The large, high-voltage batteries used in plug-in cars can be damaged more easily than traditional batteries in gas-powered vehicles in the event of a crash. Even isolated problems “related to their safety or reliability can affect how consumers and investors view them,” as a New York Times story Nov. 11 pointed out.
The Chevy Volt has a gasoline engine, in addition to the battery. The gas engine takes over when the battery is depleted.
As GM’s stock prices fell in recent months, so did Chevy Volt sales. The 281 Volts sold nationwide last February didn’t exactly make the 125 sold in July a whopping sales month. A GM spokesperson claimed that the company was virtually “sold out.”
But associate fellow Marc Modica at the National Legal and Policy Center said, in effect, that assertion was bogus. He said a search on the cars.com site showed close to 500 Volts for sale across the country. “The demand for Chevy Volt is not as strong as GM would have us believe.”
The president also had proposed that Congress turn the $7,500 tax credit into a rebate for consumers who buy “an advanced technology vehicle,” such as the Volt or Nissan’s Leaf (which is all electric, rather than a hybrid). Anything to save more fossil fuel, because of the baseless fear of global warming. That’s the administration’s almost religious faith.
Despite Obama’s romanticized view of technology, electric cars appeal to a relatively tiny demographic group of “only young, very high income individuals”—those making $150,000 to $200,000 a year—who would be interested in buying an electric car.
According to Deloitte Consulting, which interviewed industry experts and 2,000 potential buyers, found that purchases would be small over the next decade and that by 2020, electric vehicles may makeup about 3 percent of total auto sales. Only 17 percent of potential buyers said they were willing to spend 8 hours recharging their car batteries.
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