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Chevy Bolt
Chevy Bolt, image courtesy of GM

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GM Says It Has Fixed The Chevy Bolt Battery Problem — New Cells Already In Production

New battery cells for the Chevy Bolt are in production and should find their way into recalled cars in October.

Good news, EV fans. GM and LG say they have solved the battery cell manufacturing defect that led to several battery fires. LG stopped producing the cells in August, but resumed production recently.

A spokesperson for LG told Consumer Reports on Monday, “GM and LG have identified the presence of two rare simultaneous defects, found in the same battery cell, made during module manufacturing process.” GM explained that the cause is a torn anode tab and folded separator within the battery modules, which is what we reported earlier. The spokesperson said those manufacturing defects have now been corrected and are not related to battery fires that have occurred in some Hyundai Kona electric cars.

GM says it will begin replacing the entire battery pack in 2017, 2018, and 2019 Bolts beginning in October. For 2020 and newer models, one or more of the battery modules will be replaced, but not the entire pack. LG has ramped up production capacity to meet the demand for new battery cells so they can be assembled into modules and packs in order to get them out to dealers in time for the October deadline.

That is terrific news, but Bolt owners are not completely out of the woods yet. Until their cars are fitted with the new cells, they are still advised to charge outdoors and to limit charging to 90% of capacity. GM has rolled back its most recent advice to park at least 50 feet away from other cars while charging. The new guidance is to leave “ample room” between the Bolt and other vehicles, whatever that means. Full details on how to charge all Bolts and Bolt EUVs are posted on GM’s battery recall web page.

New Diagnostic Software

GM is a big believer in the power of software to identify potentially dangerous conditions in the batteries of its Bolt and Bolt EUV cars. It thought it had a fix on the problem earlier, but two subsequent battery fires showed the first software tool was not up to the task. Now GM believes it has gotten its sums right and will begin distributing a new diagnostic software package within 60 days. It claims the new diagnostic tool is “designed to detect specific abnormalities that might indicate a damaged battery in Bolt EVs and EUVs by monitoring the battery performance and alerting customers of any anomalies.”

This will be a dealer installed tool. Once it has run all its diagnostic programs and found no issues, the software will allow customers to safely charge the vehicles to 100% instead of the 90% recommended now. The Verge notes that GM has offered no details about what the differences are between Software Fix #1 and Software Fix #2.

A Black Eye

This whole battery fire carambolage has been a huge black eye for EVs in general and GM in particular. Not only will it be costly — the cost of fixing the problem is expected to reach $2 billion — but all those Bolts will always be looked at with suspicion. Already, people are asking how GM can use LG batteries in the new Cadillac Lyriq when it knows they might catch fire. The answer is that the Ultium battery cell is a completely different animal from the cells used in Bolts, even if both have the LG label on the outside.

It just gives EV detractors another excuse to bash electric cars. Stupidity is rampant these days and there’s not much we can do to prevent stupid people from saying stupid things. All we can do is be as well informed as possible and provide accurate information when the opportunity presents itself. The EV revolution will survive this setback.

 
 
 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?

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