By Drew Johnson
Friday, Nov 11th, 2011 @ 12:41 pm
The safety of lithium-ion batteries has, quite literally, come under fire after a Chevrolet Volt burst into flames at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center in Wisconsin.

Although the NHTSA has yet to publicly comment on the ongoing probe, four people familiar with the situation revealed to Bloomberg that the agency has approached General Motors, as well as Nissan and Ford, over the safety of lithium-ion batteries in plug-in vehicles.

The lithium-ion investigation was sparked by a Chevy Volt that caught fire at a NHTSA facility three-weeks after it was involved in a side-impact crash test. The fire was reportedly so intense that it spread to neighboring vehicles. Investigators determined that the source of the fire was the Volt's battery pack.

The Volt is also involved in separate a fire investigation for a garage fire that happened earlier this year in North Carolina. The NHTSA says that investigation is ongoing.

The NHTSA maintains that it "does not believe the Volt or other electric vehicles are at a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles"ť, but it appears it could be a different story behind closed doors. Lithium-ion batteries have previously been questioned for their use in electric vehicles as they are prone to overheat and catch fire. It remains to be seen if anything will come from the investigation, but it could have a huge impact on the automotive industry - nearly every automaker is relying on lithium-ion technology to power their future electric and hybrid vehicles.

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