DETROIT -- A battery explosion this morning in a General Motors research lab injured five people and caused a small fire along with other damage.
Fire crews were called to the battery systems lab at GM's Warren Technical Center in Warren, Mich., at about 8:45 a.m. after a report of an explosion in the plant. Warren Deputy Fire Chief Gary Wilkinson said that when crews arrived they found a small fire and smoke in one of the labs.
One of the employees sustained injuries and was transported to a Detroit hospital. Wilkinson said the injuries were not life threatening but had no further details.
Four other employees were treated at the scene for minor injuries, Reuters reported.
Wilkinson said a battery under extreme testing had exploded, causing the fire.
The explosion caused a fire that was extinguished, Kevin Kelly, a GM spokesman, told Bloomberg.
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said he was told by Warren Fire Department officials that fumes from hydrogen sulfide caused an explosion inside a battery laboratory. A man who suffered a concussion and chemical damage to his skin was apparently outside a containment area where tests were being conducted on a prototype battery, Fouts said.
"It was a major explosion," Fouts told Reuters. "At least one eight-inch (thick) door was blown out. What could have been a major catastrophic event was not so because of the quick work of the Warren Fire Department and GM officials."
The explosion also blew out at least three windows and, according to Fouts, about 80 people in the building had to be evacuated.
GM officials declined to comment on Fouts' statements.
Report: Battery made by A123
The Wall Street Journal, quoting an unnamed GM source, said the lithium ion battery being tested was being developed for a new line of all-electric cars and was made by A123 Systems Inc. An official from A123 was not immediately available for comment, the Journal reported.
A123 Systems last month said it would replace battery packs made at its plant in Livonia, Mich. The company blamed a flaw in the manufacturing process that could cause its lithium ion batteries to fail. The Fisker Karma, which failed during a Consumer Reports driving test because of a battery problem, was among the vehicles supplied by A123.
South Korea's LG Chem makes the lithium ion batteries used in the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt.
There were reports of battery fires following two tests of the Volt last year. An investigation of those fires was initiated and later closed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
GM expanded its current 33,000-square-foot global battery systems lab in 2009. The lab leads the automaker's research and testing of energy storage systems, including lithium ion batteries and ultracapacitors for extended-range electric, plug-in, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, according to a GM statement from that time.
The research lab is equipped with 160 test channels and 42 thermal chambers to duplicate extreme real-world driving patterns, hot and cold temperatures and calendar life.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.