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Stop! Don’t Cut that Wire! That’s a Chevy Volt!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The “Grab the Cat” scene from the movie Lethal Weapon 3 is being played out in training rooms across America thanks to a generous $4.4 million grant from the Department of Energy.

If you’re not familiar with the scene, first responders, Detectives Riggs and Murtaugh, are trying to disarm a car bomb, while a cat plays nearby. Riggs doesn’t know which wire to snip, so he just snips one at random. As he watches the bomb’s timer begin to hyper-accelerate, he realizes that he’s cut the wrong wire. He casually says to his partner Roger Murtaugh, “Hey, Rog?”

“Yeah,” says Murtaugh.

“Grab the cat.”

The men and the cat escape in the nick of time.

Well that scene, minus the explosion, is just another of the unintended benefits brought to us by the award-winning designers of the Chevy Volt.

Unlike old-fashioned lead acid batteries, the Chevy Volt lithium battery contains enough of a punch that it can kill you- and anyone else who is not grounded- if first responders cut the wrong wires or even the right ones, as Stephen Smoot reminded us last week on Townhall.

After taking us through the procedure first responders are suppsoed to use to cut the wires, Smoot writes:

"General Motors also warns that 'cutting these cables can result in serious injury or death.'" 

Don't cut that wire! No, it's not a North Korean nuke. It's more dangerous: It's the power train of the Chevy Volt                

Emery - Volt Figure 8 (Courtesy of General Motors)

Nothing like making first responders’ jobs more hazardous. Give that car an award for design innovation!

“Besides attending to and rescuing the injured, first responders must now be aware of the potential hazards the new alternative-fuel technology may pose,” says Energyboom’s transportation correspondent Jace Shoemaker. “In order to keep both passengers and rescue crews safe, first responders must be aware of the potential for electrical shock, dangers of unintended vehicle movement, the challenges of charging stations and fires.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, which is sponsoring training for first responders through the Department of Energy grant, “Training programs will help first responders ascertain whether the car is disabled or not, provide information about how to power down vehicles, demonstrate how to safely disconnect the high-voltage system, and show safe cut points for extrication.”

Before I even get in a vehicle, I always try to identify the safe cut points for extrication. My family and I make a game of it on the way to Grandma’s.

“Anyone who can guess the safe cut points for extrication gets to sit near one!” I say.

“Hurray, I’m going to live…assuming I don’t get electrocuted or crushed by unintended vehicle movement or burn up in a lithium-coolant fire,” says the winner.

In response, General Motors- after a year of sales- is considering ways to allow first responders to discharge the battery so they can have a safe working environment.

“I can’t conceive that they didn’t have a standard operating procedure in place for handling a wrecked vehicle before the car went on sale,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington according to Bloomberg. “NHTSA and GM should have established protocols in place before it went on sale.”

Yeah, well that’s all fine and good in the real world, but the Chevy Volt is a government program. It’s not about results, it’s a “journey of personal discovery.”

“In all instances when there’s an accident, you have to have a protocol,” says Dan Akerson, GM’s chief executive officer, writes Bloomberg. “That was a good lesson that came out of this.”

Wow. Akerson almost sounds like he has done this before.

Maybe that’s a lesson he learned as the last company he was CEO of, XO Communications, went into bankruptcy.

In 1999, just three years before bankruptcy, mediabistro reports that Akerson’s average monthly compensation at XO was $15,045,578. That’s $180, 546,396 for one year’s compensation.

That’s quite a safe cut point for extrication if you’re a CEO of a failing company.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those OWS types who think CEOs should make minimum wage. But since all of us are shareholders in GM, and since XO did go into bankruptcy and since Akerson was the knucklehead who decided two years ago to increase production capacity of the Chevy Volt by 50 percent, you do have to wonder if the guy has the extra capacity to learn anything.

Akerson’s flagship offering, the Chevy Volt, has all the safety features of the Pinto and the Corvair, housed in the elegant styling of the Gremlin with a 25 mile range- if you don’t use heat and air conditioning.

Just exactly why are we putting first responders or anyone else in danger for this vehicle? So that the Volt can win the first Nobel Prize in auto design? So it can be Time Magazine’s Man of the Year?


Speaking in my role as GM shareholder and innocent bystander, let me be the first to respond by saying “Grab the cat.”      

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