Initially General Motors had reportedly suggested to some Chevy Volt owners that melting of the included charging cord was possibly due to faulty house wiring, but the automaker has recently agreed to replace them for around 9,5000 of the plug-in vehicles.
This is not the first time cords to the 120-volt house chargers have been considered sub-standard, needing to be replaced, and earlier owner reports of finding melted cords at the receptacle had led GM to offer new upgraded ones, but now a more robust cord is being replaced for all.
But with the question of a possibly bad cord between them, anecdotes suggest there has been some mystery about exactly why a Volt owner might discover signs of overheating or outright melting. It is possible that not-to-spec house wiring could induce reported symptoms. But better safe than sorry, GM is now going to handle it to allay customer concerns just as it was willing to replace entire cars when the federal battery investigation was ongoing late last year. No doubt, as GM is working to see its new technology embraced, it hopes this cord replacement will allay concerns now once and for all.
GM is not officially calling this a recall, as it is voluntary, and it says people need not worry about safety. Company spokesman Randy Fox said the replacement campaign is to “offer a more consistent charging experience” and customers will receive a notification letter in a couple of weeks or so.
Significant features of the 12-foot-long cord attached to a plug-in base unit are it is now using a heavier, melt-resistant sheathing comparable to what the Nissan Leaf gets, and wire thickness has been upgraded from 16 gauge to 14 gauge.
To date, despite the word “fire” and “Volt” being written and spoken in so many reports, it should be said that no Volts or houses are known to have caught fire due to any such issues, and it would appear correct for GM to say it is not a major concern. True, an over-heated and melted cord could be a precursor to a more severe incident, but it’s not known to have ever happened, and the new cord is believed to be fully able to prevent such concerns.
One upside to having to deal with plugging in at home, as those knowledgeable of electrified vehicles already understand, is it allows Volt owners to bypass gasoline pumps by relying on the grid. This allows the electric vehicle with gasoline-power backup to travel solely on electricity to around 35 miles – which the official government estimate – though in winter it can dip to 25 miles, and on the high end 45-55 miles electric range has been reported by Volt owners.
Teething problems for any new technology are not unexpected, but the Volt was a billion-dollar project called by Motor Trend a “moon shot” when it was first reviewed. It has won a laundry list of awards, and presently tops Consumer Reports list for owner satisfaction.
We are adding these facts for balance because short briefs about problems have sparked PR fires for GM in recent months to the extent that in January GM’s CEO felt compelled to say with exasperation to a congressional subcommittee that the vehicle has become a “political punching bag.”
Volt sales were hurt as a result, and GM said it is having to effectively “relaunch” the car. The Volt production line is now shut down for a five-week period to align supply with demand.
In light of rising gas prices, however, it appears the Volt may be past the worst of its publicity trial due to battery safety and other concerns, and anecdotes suggest sales are picking up.
We will see soon, when numbers come at month’s end, and in months ahead as well.