Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Biggest Threat to the Chevy Volt are...Rats?!

Okay, readers: hands up if you like rats. No, not the cute white ones you see in science labs or can buy at pet shops. I’m talking about the sewer-dwelling, disease-carrying ones that invade your house to eat, poop and scare your misses.

What if I told you those same feral rats are not only a danger to your home but also to your brand-spanking-new plug-in hybrid extended range electric vehicle? How’s that grab you, hmm?

So a month ago , the automotive mavens at Kicking Tires were handed the keys to a new Chevrolet Volt. What’s that got to do with rats, you ask? Well, in a move that some at the office have labeled, “karmic justice” and others have labeled, “bloomin’ rats”, a member of the repressed rodent classes has attacked Kicking Tires’ futuristic loaner and rendered it befuddled. *Gasp!*

So here’s the skinny: with a blizzard blowing in Chicago, Kicking Tires’ Senior Editor David Thomas dropped the blog’s Volt off at a multistorey garage and plugged it in at a public charging station. Last week, site blogger Joe Wiesenfelder received a text message alert from ChargePoint reporting a, “ground fault” and that the, “session [was] terminated”.

On Thursday night, Wiesenfelder received an email from Todd Dore, the treasurer for the Fox Valley Electric Auto Association. Mr. Dore parks his converted VW Beetle next to the blog’s Volt, and reported that a rat had scurried underneath, probably looking to escape the subzero temperatures of the Chicago winter.

On Friday morning, Mr. Wiesenfelder unplugged the Volt and plugged it back in without any troubles. Sensing nothing unusual, he left the garage. He picked up the car Friday evening and drove it home. On the way, the Volt produced several strange warnings including, “ABS”, “Service Brake Assist” and “Service Stabilitrak”.

The next day, Wiesenfelder noted that the secondary rear window (the smaller, vertical pane that’s not at all like the one on the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight) wasn’t demisting though the primary one was.

Concerned, he took the troublesome Volt into Grossinger City Chevy of Chicago the following Tuesday. The dealer confirmed that the rat had gnawed through a wiring harness in the engine compartment causing, at very least, those troubles.

It won’t be covered under warranty, of course – acts of rats are classed the same as acts of God – though the Volt has been trouble free for over a month and 3,000 miles. In colder countries, apparently, rats are known to climb into the engine compartments of recently parked cars to warm up. The Volt’s battery is known to stay warm when charging and even when fully charged, making the perfect overnight home for a frostbitten rodent.

Wiesenfelder doesn’t think that this is the last time this will happen, or that it’ll be limited solely just the Volt. He’s asking for input from readers and Chevrolet on how to address the problem, and Carscoop would like to do the same. How do you keep a rat from crawling into your parked car at night?

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