By on August 25, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

General Motors has informed a small number of owners of its Chevrolet Bolt EV about a battery issue that could cause a sudden loss of propulsion. Some of the early Bolt models may incorrectly report the estimated remaining range at lower states of charge due to potentially faulty cells, resulting in the car stopping abruptly.

The automaker says less than 1 percent of Bolts sold to date are likely to face the problem, and GM is currently arranging repairs for the affected cars. Ideally, the faulty cells are the result of an isolated manufacturing defect and not the result of some widespread wonky battery chemistry. 

In an interview with PluginCars, ‎Kevin Kelly, senior manager for advanced technology communications at General Motors, explained the solution would be to replace the entire battery pack, even if only one cell turned out to be faulty.

“We noticed an anomaly via data from OnStar and that led us to investigate the issue,” explained Kelly.

GM stated that the voltage problem is caused by one or more of the cells malfunctioning and thereby providing a false reading of remaining range on the dashboard. Drivers could then mistakenly believe the Bolt’s spoiled battery pack has sufficient charge to complete a journey — only to find themselves stranded before reaching their destination.

PluginCars’ Brad Berman was also one of the claimed few affected by the voltage issue. His Bolt indicated a 100-mile range before issuing a warning chime, shuddering, and coming to a complete stop while on the road. At this point, the vehicle indicated 9 miles of possible range but wouldn’t allow itself to be placed in any gear except neutral or park.

Berman was also clear that the “behavior of the vehicle was not like driving an EV with a depleted battery.” Typically, EVs that have nearly exhausted their power enter into a limp mode that reduces power for the sake of maximizing a now-limited range. Instead, the Bolt issued a short alert and abruptly stopped in the middle of the road — forcing the driver to push it to safety.

He stated it took the service center roughly two days to diagnose the problem. This was due to a limited supply of EV specialists and other Bolts already queued for servicing at the local dealership. As a result of the que, it took nearly two weeks to replace the battery pack. Berman also said he was surprised to learn GM considered his vehicle an early production model, as he had leased it roughly six months after deliveries began in North America.

[Image: General Motors]

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12 Comments on “General Motors Hips Early EV Adopters to Potential Battery Failure in the Bolt...”

  • avatar

    Queue at the end there. Que is a shorthand version of Quebec.

    I find it kind of surprising that the car would just stop and not enter a limp mode. I’d also think a freewheel mechanism might be handy for this sort of situation, allowing the driver to coast to the side of the road vs stopping cold.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Sounds like this bug could affect about 100 cars or so.

    Mr Berman shouldn’t be surprised that his ‘newer’ car is really an early production model. There is currently a 4-month supply of Bolts on the lot, since GM has been overbuilding this car. His probably sat awhile before he bought it.

  • avatar

    GM should have used Energizer batteries – they keep going and going and going.

  • avatar

    senior manager for advanced technology communications at General Motors

    Good to know the organization isn’t top heavy…

  • avatar

    If it (paraphrasing) “didn’t behave like an EV running out of power”, the controller was probably under the assumption that there was sufficient charge remaining…until there wasn’t. Limp-home would otherwise be activated had the system realized it was that low.

    This is my theory, anyway, and I’m not an engineer, nor an EV or Chevy Bolt expert, but it makes sense to me.

    Like (in a given ICE vehicle) if the sender in the tank indicates that there is 1/4 tank of gas left, falsely, the “LOW FUEL” light wouldn’t be activated as you entered a critical level. Ask me how I know that one. ;) lol

    • 0 avatar

      Right. Also, the “limp” mode isn’t to extend the range, but to protect the battery from over discharge.

      If a battery is dead, there is not a lot the controller can do, other than shutting down. With modern chemistries, you don’t get a lot of warning, either. That’s why the “gas gauge” is calibrated when the charge is complete, and then counts how much energy has been used. Unless it’s almost completely full or dead, you have no idea the state of charge.

  • avatar

    Early adopters are heroic, ya know…

  • avatar

    The BOLT is a Beta tester for GM :=)

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    This is the problem when a car needs 87 micro-controllers to dance in perfect harmony for the car to operate. Used to be if you had spark, fuel, and compression the car would run. Those days are gone.

    (Cue the obligatory posts about how modern cars are more reliable then ever, blah blah, blah.)


    • 0 avatar

      “(Cue the obligatory posts about how modern cars are more reliable then ever, blah blah, blah.)”


      “I proudly disregard facts that are not consistent with my preconceived ideas. Do not take me seriously.”

  • avatar

    “Hips” How exactly did GM hip Bolt owners.

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