Difference Engine: Volt farce
FOR General Motors, a good deal of the company’s recovery from its brushwith bankruptcy is riding on the Chevrolet Volt (Opel or Vauxhall Ampera inEurope), its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle launched a year ago. Not that GMexpects the sleek four-seater to be a cash cow. Indeed, the car company losesmoney on every one it makes. But the $41,000 (before tax breaks) Chevy Volt is a"halo" car designed to show the world what GM is capable of, and to lurecustomers into dealers’ showrooms—to marvel at the vehicle’s ingenioustechnology and its fuel economy of 60 miles per gallon (3.9litres/100km)—andthen to drive off in one or other of GM’s bread-and-butter models.接下来为大家介绍"分析雅思阅读材料：Difference Engine"
So, it is no surprise that GM should bend over backwards to mollifycustomers concerned by recent news of the Volt’s lithium-ion battery catchingfire following crash tests. GM is offering to loan cars to Volt owners worriedabout their vehicle’s safety while an official investigation is underway andmodifications made if deemed necessary. The company has
Even offered to buy vehicles back from owners who have lost confidence inthe technology. There have not been many takers. As of December 5th, fewer thanthree dozen owners—out of 6,400 Volts sold to date in North America—hadrequested loan cars. And only a couple of dozen had asked for their Volts to bebought back. At a suitable price, your correspondent would have welcomed thechance to buy one of those secondhand buy-backs for himself, had they notalready been snapped up by employees. Dan Akerson, GM’s chief executive, isbelieved to have bought one for his wife.
The trouble all started in May, when the National Highway Traffic SafetyAdministration (NHTSA) carried out a routine 20 mph (32km/h) crash test on aVolt—to simulate a sideways impact with a tree or telegraph pole followed by arollover. Three weeks after the test, the car’s 16 kilowatt-hour battery packcaught fire in NHTSA’s car park, destroying the vehicle and several othersnearby.
Shortly thereafter, both NHTSA and the carmaker repeated the side-impactand rollover test on at least two other cars, all to no effect. However, insubsequent tests—carried out in November by experts from the energy and defencedepartments as well as GM—the investigators deliberately damaged the batterypacks and ruptured their coolant lines. One battery pack behaved normally.Another emitted smoke and sparks hours after it was flipped on its back. And athird exhibited a temporary increase in temperature, but then burst into flamesa week later.