Reader Question: Chevy Volt/Charging Safety?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mark asks: Though the Chevy Volt has a Li-Ion battery pack, it’s small; it can also be easily charged with 120 VAC. Because of that, would it be safer to have a Volt vs. a pure EV?

My reply: Charging any battery is generally safer on a slow-charge (“trickle charge”) basis as well as better for the battery’s longevity. This goes for the Volt’s battery as well as the battery packs in other electric cars and partial-electric cars (i.e., hybrid cars).

The problem, of course, for full-time electric cars is the greater need to “fast” charge – assuming you want to drive rather than wait. This being so because the EV will not go unless the battery is charged. Whereas in a hybrid – and the Volt is essentially that – the car can go so long as the tank is full. There is no necessity to stop – and wait. It has the ability to recharge itself as it goes, using the gas engine as a take-it-with-you generator.

You can plug in – and wait – when it is convenient. And safer. Because you can afford to wait the 6-12 hours it takes to recharge on 120 volt household current.

The huge – and soon to be even more so – problem with purely electric cars is that having to wait sucks. People will expect to be able to go – which will mean more (and more) “fast” charging, which will increase the risk of fires, especially as EVs age. Any fault in the system, its electronic safeguards and/or the physical integrity of the battery pack itself, can and almost certainly will increase the chances of a fire after thousands of discharge/recharge cycles.

An aging IC car may smoke – through the tailpipe. But an aging EV is more likely to burn. In your garage, perhaps.

 . . . 

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Thanks, Eric! I was researching solid state batteries, and one of the appeals of ASSBs is that there’s no liquid electrolyte in it; Li-Ion has the liquid electrolyte, which can and does start fires.


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