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If lithium-ion batteries are so darned safe, why will the Volt need all that armor?

Autobloggreen just published an article on GM's plans to pare the specifications on future generations of the battery pack for its Voltec drivetrain. While the article's primary concern was that the battery pack would be smaller and die sooner, I was shocked by the picture of the current volt battery pack.

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I'm a natural born cynic, but when I look at the picture I see an awful lot of armor on the top side of a supposedly safe battery pack and have to wonder, if the lithium-ion batteries are so darned safe, then why will the Volt need all that thick formed metal for the case? Was it an engineering question or a legal liability question?

At first I wondered whether the case might be plastic or some sort of composite, but the mounting holes that are clearly visible along the bottom front edge have a sheen to them that one doesn't ordinarily see in non-metal components.


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Disclosure: No public companies mentioned.