General Motors Recalls Majority of Chevrolet Bolts to Prevent Additional Fires

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

As we reported about a month ago, the NHTSA was sniffing around the Chevrolet Bolt due to a small number of fires which occurred in the EVs while they were parked.

Now after launching its own internal investigation, GM is issuing a recall of the vast majority of Bolts produced.

The investigation was launched after there were two reported fires in Bolts, one a 2018 model year, the other a 2019. Things got more serious when the NHTSA reviewed some more records and found it had already heard of a fire in a 2017 Bolt as well. The fires occurred in Bolts while they were parked, had nearly full or full battery charge, and the flames spread from underneath the rear passenger seat.

Once alerted by the NHTSA, General Motors started its own investigation and identified fires in five total Bolt fires – two more than cited by the NHTSA. GM has traced the source of the fire to the Bolt’s high-voltage batteries, which were produced in South Korea by LG Chem.

The recall includes Bolts from model years 2017 through 2019. 77,842 Bolts were made between 2017 and 2020, and the recall affects 68,667 units. The vast majority were sold within the US, as the Bolt proved unpopular in other markets. 50,295 owners across the nation were issued recall notices on Friday.

GM says they don’t know what’s causing the fires, and are working to make that determination. They plan to have a fix after the first of the year. That means the dollar hit from a recall gets reported with 2021 financials instead of the already tarnished 2020 ones.

The General does not think all recalled cars are affected with the battery issue, but is casting a wider net for an abundance of caution. Bolts from 2017 and 2018 used the same Korean-sourced LG Chem batteries, but the usage was mixed for 2019: Some had LG batteries from Korea, while others had similar LG batteries made in Michigan. For 2020, the Bolt implemented a different battery chemistry which improved range.

Until a fix is found, GM is informing customers with 2017 and 2018 Bolts to run their hatchbacks in Hilltop Reserve mode. In 2019 Bolts, the present instruction is for owners to set their Bolts to charge to a max of 90 percent. Accompanying videos have been created to show customers how to make these changes themselves and avoid a trip to the dealer.

[Image: GM]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Nov 16, 2020

    Lithium ion batteries physically swell a bit when fully charged. Good pack design permits this dimensional change to happen without consequence. Maybe failure to read the lithium ion design guide has caused this. IMO, GM could be facing a replacement campaign for all Bolt batteries - not good.

    • See 3 previous
    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Nov 16, 2020

      @SCE to AUX MAX-spending, amirite

  • W. W. on Nov 16, 2020

    Built Chevy Proud!! Man, this 2017-19 Bolt are quickly becoming some of the worst vehicles to come out of Detroit in a very long time. What’s troubling is that Chevy just can’t seem to figure out how to make them correctly. What a joke.

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Nov 16, 2020

      Typical GM. Volt: Actually worked pretty well but it was far too expensive. Bolt: Cut 1/2 of production costs from Volt, and it sucks.

  • MaintenanceCosts I hope they make it. The R1 series are a genuinely innovative, appealing product, and the smaller ones look that way too from the early information.
  • MaintenanceCosts Me commenting on this topic would be exactly as well-informed as many of our overcaffeinated BEV comments, so I'll just sit here and watch.
  • SCE to AUX This year is indeed key for them, but it's worth mentioning that Rivian is actually meeting its sales and production forecasts.
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