General Motors has issued a second recall for more than 50,000 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles, to replace defective battery modules that have been linked to continuing reports of fires, even after the EV cars were supposedly already repaired following an earlier recall.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the Chevrolet Bolt EV recall on July 23, following reports of at least three new fires involving vehicles which already received interim or final recall repairs offered by General Motors in the wake of a recall announced last year.
In November 2020, General Motors recalled 50,932 model year 2017, 2018 and 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs, due to problems with the lithium ion battery, which may overheat and catch on fire, even when the vehicle is parked and the engine is turned off.
General Motors reportedly first learned about the Bolt EV battery risks in July 2020, after warranty claims were filed indicating vehicles were catching on fire. GM opened an investigation with its battery parts supplier, LG Electronics, to collect field parts which initially determined the cells of the batteries may short out when the battery is fully charged or at near full capacity.
By November 2020, GM had received a total of 12 reports of the batteries overheating, emitting smoke or smoldering, in which five of the reports resulted in actual fires starting in the engine compartment.
According to the investigation, GM determined the cells of the battery are specific to the issue at hand, and the root cause is was still being investigated. GM and its parts supplier ultimately determined the battery components are at risk of overheating and catching on fire when the battery is fully charged, or very close to full charge, and issued an interim remedy for customers to activate either the Hill Top Reserve (2017 and 2018 models) or Target Charge Level (2019 models) feature in their vehicle to limit the charge level to 90%, until the software update is completed.
In April, General Motors announced their engineering department traced the overheating and fires to what it called a “rare manufacturing defect” in battery modules, which may cause a short in the cells. The auto maker indicated that a software update to look for deficiencies in the batteries would be offered to customers as a final remedy.
However, on July 23, NHTSA officials issued a Chevrolet Bolt EV battery warning, instructing owners to limit the vehicle’s charge capacity and continue parking the vehicles outside and away from structures, even if it the vehicle already been “repaired”, following three new fires that were reported even after the first Chevy Bolt recall repair. The warning also instructed owners to avoid depleting the battery to 70 miles range remaining and to not charge the vehicles overnight.
Officials reported two of the vehicles which received GM’s final software upgrade remedy had reportedly caught on fire, and one vehicle that only received the interim battery limitation remedy also caught on fire.
Officials warn the battery cell packs in the recalled vehicles still have the potential to smoke and ignite internally even after repairs, which could spread to the rest of the vehicle and cause a structure fire if the vehicle is parked inside a garage or near a house.
Due to the continued incidents of fires in repaired vehicles, General Motors has issued a supplemental recall of the same 50,932 model year 2017, 2018 and 2019 Chevrolet Bolt vehicles.
According to GM, an interim notification letter informing owners of the safety risk are expected to be mailed by September 6, 2021, and a second letter will be mailed once replacement parts are available. At that point, dealers will replace the defective battery modules free of charge.
Until the final recall remedy to replace the defective battery module is complete, owners should activate either the Hill Top Reserve (2017 and 2018 models) or Target Charge Level (2019 models) feature in their vehicle to limit the charge level to 90%, charge their vehicle after each use, avoid depleting the battery to 70 miles range remaining, park outside after charging, and do not charge the vehicle overnight.
Customers with additional questions or concerns surrounding the recall can contact the Bolt EV Concierge Team at 1-833-382-4389 and reference the recall number N212343880.