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Chevy Bolt Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Battery Problems, Fire Risks

Following a recall of nearly 70,000 Chevrolet Bolt vehicles, a class-action lawsuit alleges the manufacturer negligently introducing electric car with defective battery packs, which are prone to overheat and catch fire.

The complaint (PDF) was filed against General Motors LLC in the in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on December 11, alleging Chevy Bolt lithium ion battery problems not only pose a fire and injury risk due to defective designs, but also indicates the repair remedy limits the maximum state of charge, reducing the amount of mileage the vehicles can travel.

The Chevy Bolt lawsuit was filed by Illinois residents Robin Altobelli and Dayle Andersen, claiming that the 60 kWh 350 V lithium-ion battery used to power 2017 through 2018 models of the electric vehicle, as well as certain 2019 cars, contain serious manufacturing defects that may cause the battery system to overheat when it is charged to full or nearly full capacity, putting the battery at risk of exploding or catching fire.

General Motors and the U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) know of at least 12 reports of the battery problems with Chevy Bolt vehicles, including instances where the battery overheated, emitted smoke or smoldered. In at least five of the reports, the Chevy Bolt engine compartment caught on fire, resulting in injuries from smoke inhalation.

Plaintiffs claim General Motors not only knew, or should have known, of the battery defect, but that the company also delayed an investigation to increase profits while putting customer safety at risk.

GM is alleged to have known of the potential battery problems since July 2019, when it received the first report of a spontaneous fire occurring when charging a Chevy Bolt. However, rather than promptly opening an investigation, the manufacturer delayed an investigation to continue selling its remaining inventory before switching over to a new battery design for 2020 models, according to the lawsuit.

Altobelli and Andersen further claim that, even after GM publicly recognized the defect and issued the Chevy Bolt recall on November 13, the manufacturer provided a sub-par remedy which decreases the capacity of the vehicles travel ability.

GM’s recall announcement indicated the cells of the battery are specific to the issue at hand, and the root cause is still being investigated. GM and its part supplier determined the battery components are at risk of overheating and catching on fire when the battery is fully charged.

As an interim remedy, GM announced dealers would provide a software update to reprogram the hybrid propulsion control module 2 (HPCM2) to limit full charge to 90% to avoid the risk of fires, which plaintiffs claim decreases advertised driving range and diminishes the value of the vehicle.

In the recall announcement, GM also instructed customers to activate either the Hill Top Reserve (2017 and 2018 models) or Target Charge Level (2019 models) features in their vehicle to limit the charge level to 90%, and to park their vehicles outside and away from structures to avoid injuries or property damage in the case of a battery fire.

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