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雅思阅读素材积累:Difference Engine: Volt farce

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雅思阅读素材积累:Difference Engine: Volt farce

  Shortly thereafter, both NHTSA and the carmaker repeated the side-impact and rollover test on at least two other cars, all to no effect. However, in subsequent tests—carried out in November by experts from the energy and defence departments as well as GM—the investigators deliberately damaged the battery packs and ruptured their coolant lines. One battery pack behaved normally. Another emitted smoke and sparks hours after it was flipped on its back. And a third exhibited a temporary increase in temperature, but then burst into flames a week later.

  GM believes the Volt's battery problem was caused by malfunctioning sensors rather than chemical reactions going haywire within the cells themselves. The company is currently developing fixes to make the battery's control systems sturdier. One proposal is to laminate the electrical circuitry. Another involves beefing up the cooling lines. A third is to reinforce the tray containing the battery modules.

  Despite GM's experience with the ground-breaking EV1 electric vehicle in the 1990s, the company still has much to learn about the public-safety issues associated with powerful batteries. For instance, both GM and NHTSA kept their mouths shut about the Volt's initial fire for the best part of six months, claiming they needed time to assess the results and to carry out further tests. Others suspect they colluded to protect the Volt's fragile sales. GM hoped to sell a modest 10,000 Volts in its first year, but will be lucky to achieve even three-quarters of its goal.

  In November, when GM finally went public about the Volt's fire problems, it warned owners, dealers and first-responders of the need to drain the car's battery pack after a crash. The OnStar communications system onboard every Volt should allow the company to dispatch an engineer to drain a battery anywhere in the country within 48 hours. For its part, NHTSA has now opened a formal safety investigation into the crash-worthiness of the Volt's battery system. Meanwhile, a congressional committee that oversees NHTSA is to hold hearings early in the new year to find out why it took nearly six months for the matter to be made public, and why the committee was not kept informed.

  But, then, GM did not adopt a "depowering" protocol for the Volt until after the June fire. Even when it did, it failed to share the procedure with the safety agency until embarking on the November tests. In the wake of the latest findings, GM is now working with the Society of Automotive Engineers, NHTSA and other vehicle manufacturers, as well as fire-fighters, tow-truck operators and salvage crew, to implement an industry-wide standard for handling battery-powered vehicles involved in accidents.

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