- General Motors has announced a recall of 50,932 2017 through 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the U.S.
- The problem is the chance of a fire in the high-voltage battery pack, which could occur even when the vehicle is stopped, parked, and not plugged in to charge.
- GM said owners should park the vehicles outside and away from houses until repairs can take place and, in the video below, explains what else owners can do.
UPDATE 7/14/21: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a "Consumer Alert" today. The safety agency is telling 2017–2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV owners to park their vehicles outside "until further notice" because of the potential of an unattended fire in the high-voltage battery pack, located under the bottom cushion of the car's back seat. This notification applies to the more than 50,000 vehicles originally recalled in November 2020, as detailed in the story below. NHTSA's notice says, "Owners of these vehicles should park their vehicles outside away from homes and other structures immediately after charging and should not leave their vehicles charging overnight, according to General Motors."
NHTSA said it is aware of two "recent" fires in Bolt EVs that had already received recall service for the issue, so this warning applies to vehicles whether or not they have been in for recall service.
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Chevrolet is recalling more than 50,000 of its Bolt EVs in the U.S. equipped with batteries manufactured by LG Chem in South Korea. There is a risk that these high-voltage batteries, located under the rear passenger seats, could catch fire. The Bolt EV has a 60.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
Executive chief engineer Jesse Ortega, in the GM video above, details the problem and explains what owners can do while waiting for a fix.
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and GM are investigating complaints from owners and have confirmed five instances of fires related to the problem. NHTSA's investigation report indicates that the agency is also investigating 2020 model year Bolt EVs and gives a total of vehicles potentially affected of 77,842. However, Chevrolet said, "The 2020 Bolt EV uses a different battery-cell design than the vehicles affected by this recall."
NHTSA's report on its investigation of three vehicles that caught fire—one each from 2017, 2018, and 2019 model years—said "fire damage appeared to be concentrated in the EV battery compartment area with penetration into the passenger compartment from under the rear seat. The root cause of these fires is unknown. One of these incidents . . . reported smoke inhalation injuries." In a consumer alert this afternoon, NHTSA said it has confirmed five fires and two injuries. In one case, the fire spread from the vehicle and "ignited a home." Therefore, the agency says Bolt EV owners should park them away from houses and outdoors.
At the time of each of the reported incidents, Ortega said, the batteries were at full or nearly full charge.
What Owners Should Do Now
GM will give dealers a software update beginning on November 17 while it continues to investigate the cause of the incidents and look for a fix. This software update will automatically limit the battery's charge to 90 percent, the automaker said. Owners are asked to contact dealers and set up appointments on or after November 17 to get the software update.
Meanwhile, Ortega said, owners of 2017 and 2018 Bolt EV vehicles should change their charge setting to the Hilltop Reserve option. Owners of 2019 Bolt EVs should change the vehicle charge setting to enable "target charge level at 90 percent." Watch the video above for detailed instructions.
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