GM Outlines Chevrolet Bolt Fire Solution

The Bolt EV problem requires a lasting solution.

Chevrolet Bolt EV in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

GM is aggressively attempting to quell the fallout from its Chevrolet Bolt EV fiasco. The Bolt is GM’s first fully dedicated electric vehicle and was supposed to serve as a transition from the Chevrolet Volt PHEV to more advanced models, such as the upcoming GMC Hummer EV and the Cadillac Lyriq.

Unfortunately, the automaker has a bit of a PR mess on its hands. Indeed, the company must recall every single Bolt built since its 2017 inception, representing roughly 142,000 vehicles. As reported by us last week, the Bolt is a fire hazard and may suddenly erupt into flames. As a result, GM advised owners to park their cars away from their homes and other vehicles until a remedy is offered. The company is working with its Korean battery supplier LG Chem to identify the problem and offer a solution.

Solution: Comprehensive Action Plan

This week, GM announced that it has developed a “comprehensive action plan” so that customers “can safely and confidently drive, charge, and park the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV. GM says the solution involves both hardware and software countermeasures, including some that are already in practice.

“We’re grateful for the patience of owners and dealers as we work to advance solutions to this recall,” said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. “Resuming battery module production is a first step and we’ll continue to work aggressively with LG to obtain additional battery supply. In addition, we’re optimistic a new advanced diagnostic software will provide more convenience for our customers.”

New Cells Coming

LG manufacturing plants in Michigan and the Netherlands have resumed production and the supplier has committed to providing more cells to GM to expedite repairs. By mid-October, dealers will begin receiving replacement battery modules to make repairs.

GM has identified a pair of manufacturing defects known as a torn anode and a folded separator, both of which must be present in the same battery cell. Although a rare occurrence, the potential for a fire is possible, thus the recall. The automaker says LG has put in place new manufacturing processes and has been working with GM to analyze and intensify its quality assurance programs in a bid to supply confidence in its batteries henceforth.

Prioritizing Repairs and a Software Deadline

Customer repairs will be prioritized depending on those whose batteries were manufactured during specific build timeframes where GM believes battery defects appear to be clustered. A notification process is in place that will advise involved customers when their replacement modules will be available. Further, GM says the new batteries will be covered by a limited warranty of 8 years or 100,000-miles, whichever comes first.

GM has also set a 60-day deadline to release a new advanced diagnostic software package. The company says that the package “will increase the available battery charging parameters over existing guidance.” Specifically, the diagnostic software will look for and detect particular abnormalities that could point to a damaged battery. If a problem is detected, the customer will be alerted and given a priority to have damaged battery modules replaced. Further, with the software in place, GM intends to permit customers to reach a 100-percent charge level post-diagnosis once again. At present, the automaker is limiting full charges to 90 percent. The software requires dealer installation.

GM also outlined updated instructions regarding the parking of the Bolt. Customers may park wherever they choose, while still allowing ample space around their vehicles. This is possible provided customers limit their charge levels to 90 percent. They must also charge their vehicles more frequently, and avoid allowing the range to fall below 70 miles. Lastly, once the Chevrolet Bolt is fully charged, it should be left outside. The company is urging Bolt owners to not leave their vehicles charging indoors overnight.

Looking Ahead

It will take many months before all Bolt owners have their cars serviced and repaired. The wait is certainly anxiety-inducing, but at least a fix is in place. Some owners, however, may want GM to buy back their cars. Likely, that is something that will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, with in-house Ultium batteries powering all upcoming GM electric vehicles, the automaker must help consumers understand the distinction. For instance, the two battery systems are unrelated. The last thing the automaker wants is customers who are too spooked to buy electric. Especially with tens of billions of dollars allocated to make the transition to full electric underway.

Photo Credits

2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV in San Francisco, California in April 2019 — Gregory Varnum, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Plugged in Chevrolet Bolt EV — Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz), CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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