GM Thinks It Knows Why Chevy Bolts Are Catching Fire

Electric Vehicles / 19 Comments

It may have to replace all of the batteries.

General Motors issued a new recall on July 23 for the surprisingly problematic Chevrolet Bolt EV. This is the second recall in the past year and affects almost 69,000 Bolts worldwide. This comes after reports of two fires, one of which was part of an earlier recall. GM says it will replace defective battery models as necessary.

It was just last week that GM told owners of 2017-2019 Bolts to park them outside, and to not leave them charging unattended, especially overnight. This was after an early recall in November that supposedly fixed the problem. GM thought it had something to do with high-voltage battery pack, which were manufactured by South Korea's LG Chem that also supplies batteries for the Hyundai Kona Electric.


Let's quickly run through the whole timeline as we know it. In November, GM issued the original recall for a fire risk. "The affected vehicles' cell packs have the potential to smoke and ignite internally, which could spread to the rest of the vehicle and cause a structure fire if parked inside a garage or near a house," the agency's announcement said.

Chevy said it found the problem in May, and then offered to buy the affected Bolts back later that month. At that time a survey on a Chevrolet Bolt forum found that 233 owners requested a buyback. Of these, 76 of the requests were accepted and 19 were denied but received a loaner car. Eight requests were denied without being offered a loaner car and 130 are still waiting for a reply.

In July, a Vermont state lawmaker (who was vocally pro EVs) saw his catch fire while it was charging in his driveway. It was a 2019 model that was recalled and supposedly fixed. That's when GM told owners to stop parking inside.


That brings us to today, with a statement from the company saying that "experts from GM and (battery maker) LG have identified the simultaneous presence of two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell as the root cause of battery fires in certain Chevrolet Bolt EVs." GM and LG are finalizing the repair steps now.

GM still says buyers shouldn't charge their Bolts past 90%, but also added that they shouldn't dip below 70 miles of range. We'll note that the Bolts do not have the company's new Ultium battery system, which is a good thing for future GM buyers, not as good for current owners.


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