Tesla to Chevy: "Welcome to the club."
It needs to be taken seriously whenever the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially opens a safety investigation for any vehicle. The latest investigation centers around the Chevrolet Bolt, General Motor's only electric vehicle on sale at the moment, to determine the cause of fires in the vehicle's battery compartment.
The NHTSA determined the necessity of opening an investigation following two reports it received regarding fires in 2018 and 2019 Bolts. The obtained information alleged the "vehicles caught fire under the rear seat while parked and unattended." Researchers began to look into the matter further and discovered a 2017 Bolt had a similar burn pattern in its rear seat. The good news is that it appears to be consistent these fires are contained to a specific area in the vehicle, the battery compartment.
The bad news is the cause remains known, hence the need for a full investigation. Fortunately, there have been no fatalities though one individual suffered from smoke inhalation. GM, in an official statement to the Detroit News, promises full cooperation with the government's investigation. "The safety of our products is the highest priority for the entire GM team," a spokesperson said. Early last month, we reported about one of those mysterious Bolt fires. An accompanying photo showing the aftermath in the rear seat is very troubling.
Again, in that situation, the Bolt's owner had parked the vehicle in a lot outside of a family member's home only to soon discover smoke emanating from the rear. It's important to also note the vehicle was not connected to a charger.
Unfortunately, the NHTSA has experience investigating electric vehicle fires: just ask Tesla. Late last year, the agency began an investigation into the California automaker's lineup following numerous battery-related fires. A cause has yet to officially be determined.
Ultimately, it's very much in GM's best interest to figure out the cause here because it intends to launch 20 new electrified models globally by 2023. Among them are the GMC Hummer and Cadillac Lyriq. Although those vehicles will feature new battery technology, lessons from the Bolt must be applied.