On November 13, 2020, General Motors and Chevrolet recalled 68,667 of their Bolt EV due to potential battery fires when charged to full, or close to full capacity. The recall affects 2017-2019 model years, which are equipped with batteries manufactured by LG Chem in South Korea. More than 50,000 of the recalled Bolts were sold in the U.S.
Five Confirmed Battery Fires
The recall of Bolt EV was prompted by five fires caused by high-voltage batteries. In October 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a safety probe following reports of at least three fires. NHTSA’s report on the investigation of the three vehicles indicated that fire damage seemed to have been concentrated in the EV battery compartment, which is located under the rear passenger seat.
The recalled Bolt EVs are equipped with battery packs containing cells produced at LG Chem’s factory in Ochang, Korea. Some of the 2019 model year Bolts were equipped with batteries made in Holland, Michigan. The vehicles have 60.0-kWh lithium-ion battery packs, which have the potential to ignite internally. The NHTSA warned that the affected Bolt EVs can catch fire even if they are turned off, disconnected from a charging unit, and parked.
In each of the confirmed cases, the batteries were at or near full charge. The root cause of the fires is still unknown, but there have been two cases of injuries related to the fires. In one of the incidents, the fire spread from the vehicle and set the owner’s house on fire.
Recommendations for Owners of Chevrolet Volt EV
Since Bolt EV’s can catch fire even if they’re turned off, the NHTSA is recommending that owners should park the car outside and away from their houses as a precaution. Before the appropriate repair is found, GM gave dealers a software update that can automatically ensure that the battery is not charged at more than 90% capacity to reduce the amount of mileage and prevent future incidents. Owners of 2017 or 2018 models should change the vehicle settings to Hill Top Reverse, which instructs the battery to leave 10% overhead when charging. Those with 2019 Bolt EVs should set their battery charge to a maximum of 90%. Owners who don’t feel confident with changing the settings should avoid parking their Bolt EV in the garage or carport until after the vehicle has been dispatched. GM hopes to have a final remedy in 2021.