Chevy Volt Totaled After Collision with Bus: All Occupants Escape Unharmed

By · November 11, 2011

Totaled Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt totaled after collision with a school bus.

A forum user on recently posted images of what might be the first totaled Chevy Volt—a vehicle that's rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and five stars by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The incident reportedly occurred on the New Jersey Turnpike in late October. The driver of the Volt describes the chain of events: "My family and I were heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike when a Ford Taurus decided to veer into our lane. It hit the drivers side door, pushed us into the right lane where we were then smashed into by an oncoming school bus. As you can see, the damage was bad and they just classified the car as a total loss."

Rear of Chevy Volt

Rear shot of totaled Chevy Volt.

Contents from the Volt's rear cargo area flew into the back seat, landing in the laps of the driver’s three-year-old and 15-month-old children. The Volt driver describes the crash, "The initial impact wasn't too bad, but then the bus hit us and it was such a loud BANG of an explosion, there was a second where I was too scared to turn around and look at my kids. You could hear the bus's engine IN the car. The car then filled with a burning rubber smell and smoke and it wobbled from side to side a bit. You could hear the tires chirping as the traction control held the car in a straight line until we were able to pull to the side."

The Volt owner continues by stating that he was driving approximately 40 miles per hour when the impact occurred and notes that the Volt's rear glass completely shattered during the crash. The moment the Volt came to a halt, its Onstar system went into action, calling the police and emergency medical services.

Fortunately, despite the damage, the driver of the Volt stated, "Except for some back and neck pain for my wife and I, it was a miracle that there wasn’t any more injuries." The two children seated in the rear of the Volt escaped completely unharmed.


· · 6 years ago

Great to hear that everybody was OK. I think it's safe to assume the owner will be getting another volt. This unfortunate event could have only strengthened his admiration for the car.

· · 6 years ago

You can see by the images that impact was extremely strong - the whole back was smashed. But the car performed perfectly - the passenger area remained intact! Very impressive! Kudos to GM!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Looks like Mickey didn't make it.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ Yegor,

I know that you are a GM supporter, but seriously, not everything "has to" tied with GM, u know.

Safety is one of the most important factor of any new vehicle. It doesn't have to be the Volt. If you have to Kudos "someone," then Kudos to those organizations that have promoted various crash testing ratings.

Now, you do know that the owner of the vehicle is currently getting screwed with the payout of the totaled vehicle, right? No kudos to GM for setting up the lease terms with US bank in the 1st place.

Also, have you seen the report today about another fire on the the Volt? No it's not house fire. It's Volt caught on fire mysteriously after a crash test prior. I would consider the owner "lucky" in this case...

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

It's great that everybody's OK, but honestly, that's a fairly easy wreck to survive in a competent car.
If he was correct in assuming he was doing about 40MPH, and school buses generally have very strict governors, there was maybe a 20MPH speed differential, and the front of a school bus would engage pretty much all of the rear surface of the Volt, effectively distributing the forces in the ways for which the car was designed. The rear crumple zone fully crumpled, obviously not leaving room for the rear glass to survive, but dissipating the energy.
On the spectrum of crashes, this one doesn't seem to be way up there.

· · 6 years ago

@Anonymous (not verified) · "Also, have you seen the report today about another fire on the the Volt? No it's not house fire. It's Volt caught on fire mysteriously after a crash test prior. I would consider the owner "lucky" in this case..."

Yes, it is lucky the owner didn't sit next to the crashed car for 3 weeks ;-)

· · 6 years ago

@Yegor, etc. Would love to see Plug In Cars be the first to do an in-depth piece comparing the relative risk of fire for ICEs involved in a crash vs. EVs, and even relative fire risk in general, beyond that associated with crashes. Haven't seen anyone do this yet -- and it's clearly an important story that needs to be done.

You know the anti-EVers are going to hit this latest Volt fire hard and, of course, not a single one them is going to acknowledge the fire danger associated with ICEs and ICE crashes.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ EV Now,

Don't underestimated the energy from a chemical reaction, especially one from a highly reactive chemical, Li+.

I'm an EV advocate, but this is a problem that ICE vehicles don't "usually" face. AFAIK, none of the crashed test ICE vehicle has bursted into flame (I'm referring to today's vehicles, not Ford Pinto or Pontiac Fiero era). Since problem is currently non-reproducible, it doesn't mean that there is no problem; it actually means we don't know how the fire happened, what caused it, and what can be done to avoid it (other than, try not to crash into or by anything, or just buy a LEAF, which has no fire after crash test, with good crash test rating all around). That to me, is a concern, and why the owners were lucky, because no one can say anything definitive at this point. Only thing I know for sure - that under some unknown condition, Volt will burst into flame.

Think of the implications too - safety rescue personnel not sure if a fire will happen, body shop that store the vehicle (with various highly combustible chemicals within the facility), etc.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

I personally don't think that it's meaningful to have a comparison on "what is safer? ICE or EV?" simply due to the fact that the comparison does NOT resolve any of the problem raised due to the fire. If one understands logic, then one understands that it is illogical to establish a fact by using the method of "comparing it to something else" as support.

I think that the positive thing to do is:
(1) Acknowledge that there WAS a fire by both the Volt and the EV community.
(2) Investigate why the fire occurred, why it took 3 months to occur, and how does time correlate with the problem;
(3) Figure out a permanent fix to the issue.

Then and only then, we can be absolutely confident to say, "yes, this won't occur anymore, and we can show it." That's how you make things better, not by comparing it to something else and being defensive to criticism.

· · 6 years ago

3 weeks after crash test fire already made to Yahoo front page news :(

How can a fire happen 3 weeks after a crash?
I am suspicious of a sabotage. Big oil is set to loose trillions of dollars because of electric cars. The car set unguarded on a parking lot for 3 weeks - anyone could have tampered with it in 3 weeks.

This kind of stuff should never be in the news - there is no proof that there were no sabotage.

I guess we can expect more sabotage in the future - there are trillions of dollars involved :(

· thoughtchallenge (not verified) · 6 years ago

There's a lot of unknowns about all of this. This is probably one of the reasons GM chose to do a gradual rollout of this car. There's probably a number of simple fixes for this problem, including a sensor that automatically detects smoke, fire, internal heat etc.

The fact is the world has a finite supply of oil, and an increasing global demand. The fact that we would be looking at drilling in wild life reserves and the risky deep oceans should tell us, that our prospects for new oil discoveries are running thin. We will probably see US. gas prices of $5 - $7 in the next 3 years, that makes the Volt and other electrics very practical alternatives.

· · 6 years ago

> have you seen the report today about another fire on the the Volt? No it's not house fire. It's Volt caught on fire mysteriously after a crash test prior.

You HAVE to be kidding me. Please. Have a read.

This whole discussion of this ONE Volt fire is just amazing. Gas cars burst into flames somewhat regularly. Do they make the news? Nope. Why? Probably because we expect it, and are somehow comfortable with it, I'd imagine.

> Don't underestimated the energy from a chemical reaction, especially one from a highly reactive chemical, Li+.

Yes, let's talk about the energy available in the Volt's Li pack. Let's compare that to the energy available in the average gas tank. Not much left to talk about, is there?

· · 6 years ago

@Anonymous (not verified) · "Don't underestimated the energy from a chemical reaction, especially one from a highly reactive chemical, Li+."

Li is no more exothermic than gasoline. If you burn a gallon worth of Lithium you get less energy than a gallon of gasoline.

· · 6 years ago

Anon. said . . .

"Also, have you seen the report today about another fire on the the Volt? No it's not house fire. It's Volt caught on fire mysteriously after a crash test prior. I would consider the owner "lucky" in this case..."

Yeah, this business of "crash now, possible fire later" is actually something that any knowledgeable electric model airplane flier who uses lithium cells knows about. When the plane comes down hard and there is even a bit of concern that the battery got significantly banged around, the battery gets removed and set aside in a safe place. It might actually take hours to occur but these lithium cells can slowly expand and then catch on fire if they're damaged this way.

Chevy knows this and noted in the New York Times article I read on this Volt fire today that their own post-crash procedures for isolating the battery were not carried out correctly. So . . . not the fault of Chevy.

Was it a dealer or the owner who didn't follow through on Chevy's recommended and thoroughly logical procedures ? The article didn't say. As far as the above crash noted in Eric's article: let's hope the dealer or owner has actually RTFM (Read The F*ckin' Manual) and will isolate the battery pack accordingly.

Elsewhere, it's been noted that both the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are among the safest of any current vehicles in crash tests. Both these manufacturers certainly worked overtime to make sure that products of theirs with such revolutionary power plants wouldn't have unrelated side stories regarding safety.

· · 6 years ago

@EVnow -

Well, sure. But new things are scary. We're used to gasoline.

Honestly, could you guys imagine if gasoline were being introduced as a new fuel today? I don't think we'd accept it. Letting the untrained masses stand around pumping it into unsealed gas inlets? Parking tens of gallons of it in their attached garages? We wouldn't put up with the risk.

· Former caddy owner (not verified) · 6 years ago

I wish I had $10 for every car fire I saw on the side of the freeway.  All gas fires.  I'm reminded of an article I read about 30 years ago.  The topic being EV's in the future.  Quite a few people slammed the thought. The writer responded by reminding them that when the very first automobiles were sold, manure salesmen complained about the end of the world.

That's what we have here.  A lot of manure.  Oil is not forever.  One of our biggest suppliers of oil is in deep trouble because their main oil field has suddenly fallen into critical decline.

Sure there's lots of oil, but one hour of the suns energy can power every building in the world for 24 hours.  That's the future.  Do we want to look like manure to future generations?

Sorry to the gardeners here ... you know what I mean!

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