The turn of the year has not been good to two of the top electric carmakers in the world today. Tesla is facing an issue as to the freezing of its electric battery pack when left uncharged for long periods of time. Chevrolet is also facing an issue, as it ordered a pause to the production of its prized Volt.
Chevrolet announced that it would be halting production of the Volt for five weeks starting end of March because of the vehicle’s oversupply in its dealerships. This would result in 1,300 layoffs in the Detroit site where the Volt is built. This is another sign of trouble for the plug-in hybrid flagship of the vehicle. The first issue was the failure to reach the projected sale of 45,000 Volts in the United States. The second issue was the NHTSA investigation as to the battery fires on the Volt.
According to GM spokesperson Chris Lee, the production is scheduled to stop on March 16 and resume on April 23. This is the third time that production of the Volt has been halted since the vehicle was made available in December 2010. He said, “Sales for the Volt in February were significantly better than January and we anticipate that to continue. We see good things in the future but right now we had to make this adjustment.”
This also affects the production of the Opel Ampera, the European version of the Volt.
As for Tesla, the issue revolves around leaving its pricey Roadster low on charge and unplugged for extended periods of time. When the battery becomes fully discharged, the whole pack becomes unusable and needs to be replaced, costing the owner $40,000.
Warranties for this battery replacement become cancelled as the owner’s manual provides advisories and warnings for owners on leaving their electric cars unplugged for extended periods of time. This has spawned a new term, called “bricking”, which also means describing electronic devices that have become useless because of corrupted software.
Tesla’s Chief Technical Officer, J.B. Straubel, who was in a conference on electric vehicles in San Diego, said that all batteries can result in total failure mode but only less than ten Roadsters may be predisposed to have the problem. He added, “If you ran your conventional engine without oil, whose fault would it be? It would be the owner’s.”
The electric car utilizes fail safe systems, including the ability to isolate the battery when charge gets low, use of a backup twelve volt battery and a separate wake up call function. Tesla though does not have these systems for the Roadster, but because of this issue, newer models would have a “deep sleep” mode and other protective systems.