Chevrolet Bolt EV Recall Update

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In a recent Facebook post, GM updated Chevrolet Bolt EV owners on the recall that applies to 2017-19 vehicles. While it’s an unusual move to post things like this in a Facebook group, it is good for owners to know that GM intends to restore full battery capacity.

The recall was first announced late last year after reports of fires in vehicles with batteries made by LG Chem. In all cases the vehicles were at 100% charge or near. The first thing the company did was to tell owners to keep their vehicles below 90% to reduce the risk of fire. This could be done with the “hilltop” setting for 2017-18 vehicles and by setting the charge for 90% in the affected 2019 vehicles. GM recommended that customers go in for a software update to keep the car from charging to 100% while the company investigated further.

Since the recall was announced in late 2020, owners have been left in the dark about GM’s specific future plans. Obviously, GM planned to repair the vehicles, but what exactly that meant wasn’t made perfectly clear. Did the company intend to change parts in all cars to prevent fires at 100%? Did it intend to cut range permanently, as Tesla is alleged to have done? Owners didn’t know for sure.

GM, seeing the confusion, went to the Facebook group and its official recall website to clarify. According to a friend who isn’t blocked from the group (WTF admins? I don’t remember even being in that group), the company said, “We’re continuing to investigate the root cause and our intention is to remove the 90% charge limit once the investigation has been completed and defective battery packs have been identified and replaced or repaired.”

On the official recall page, it now says, “Our engineers are working around the clock to identify a permanent fix and we intend to deploy a final remedy to remove the 90% limitation as quickly as possible after the first of the year, 2021.”

What We Can Gather From This

Between what was said in the group and what was added to the official recall page, several things are clear.

First, the company intends to restore full range. It is not sure exactly which vehicles are going to need any battery cells replaced, or possibly whole battery packs, but once it knows for sure, GM will replace the ones that need replaced. When all is said and done, everyone should have their previous range restored. This is a big deal to EV owners because you can’t fill back up in 5 minutes. Losing 10% of your range can make the difference between making it or not.

Second, the company seems to think that at least some Bolts will need physical work. On Facebook, it said that the range restriction will be removed once “defective battery packs have been identified and replaced or repaired.” It’s possible that each Bolt will require an inspection at a dealer to determine whether there’s a physical defect before the vehicle can be put back at normal range.

Finally, we have a vague timeframe for repairs. GM said it would fix things up as soon as possible after the new year. In some ways, this is like Geico’s “up to 15% or more.” As XKCD points out, it’s impossible to be more vague than that. It seems likely that the investigation should wrap up and lead to repairs sometime this year.

On The Bright Side…

When an ICE vehicle (like my 2017 Jetta) has a fire recall, you can’t go into the infotainment system to reduce range a bit and eliminate the fire risk. ICE fires are often related to the fuel system, and the risk can only be rectified by making a repair. In the case of the Jetta, I got a notice in the mail explaining that the risk was from loose bolts, and that we’d get more mail about the recall later.

In the meantime, the risk can’t really be mitigated except to watch out for any leaks or smells around the car.

A recall like happens to the Bolt EV is far less risky because one can readily get rid of the risk by changing settings the day the notice comes in. I’m sure the risk was small anyway, but being able to get rid of the problem immediately is always nice.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1994 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba