Chevrolet Recalling 140,000 Bolt EVs Over Fire Risk

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The Chevrolet Bolt is under recall for another defect that reportedly poses a fire risk. However, it’s got nothing to do with the battery this time around. Instead, the automaker has all-new concerns about seat belt pretensioners venting hot exhaust gasses that could ignite interior carpet. In response, General Motors will be recalling 140,000 examples of the Bolt produced for the North American market.

Chevy explained that the recall involves specific vehicles from the 2017-2023 model year and only covers the Bolt EV – presumably meaning the EUV crossover has been spared the embarrassment of another recall. In 2021, the company asked literally every single Bolt owner in existence to bring their EVs in for battery replacement because units were under a fire-related recall. The situation undermined people’s confidence in battery tech and cost the manufacturer billions of dollars.

This new recall is smaller in scope, thus far, and has a much more cost-effective fix. General Motors said it would be installing covers for some vehicles and adding a piece of metal foil on all Bolt models to protect the carpet edge from being burned by any hot gasses coming out of the pretensioner. Though it seems like a chewing-gum solution to an issue that sounds like it could be extremely dangerous to occupants.

Since seatbelt pretensioners only activate when an accident is imminent to help secure occupants in anticipation of the crash, having a unit that runs the risk of igniting the cabin feels like a massive safety hazard. Individuals will already be dazed or incapacitated by the initial impact, making it that much more difficult to exit a burning vehicle. A better solution seems to be swapping the existing carpet out with more flame-retardant materials or simply redesigning the tensioners to vent gasses in a safer manner.

Though, according to CBS News, GM has said it believes the fire risk is quite rare and has only managed to find three reports of fires that could have been caused by the problem. That may indeed be the case, with the assumed pretensioner fires being a legitimate fluke. But it’s not something you’d want to leave alone until it becomes a massive scandal and public outrage forces more compressive (see: expensive) recall measures. GM has already spent a fortune developing and then fixing the Bolt and likely doesn’t want to spend any more time fussing with it than is absolutely necessary.

[Image: Tricky_Shark/Shutterstock]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • ScarecrowRepair ScarecrowRepair on Dec 21, 2022

    Why does a seat belt pretensioner need to vent exhaust gasses hot enough to ignite carpet? What exhaust gasses exist in an EV?

    • See 1 previous
    • 285exp 285exp on Dec 22, 2022

      A seatbelt pretensioner uses an explosive charge to tighten the seatbelt during an accident to help restrain the occupant during the crash. It has sensors that detect enough deceleration to indicate a crash and in order to be of any help it has to act instantly and with considerable force, so it needs a pretty hefty charge and therefore significant hot exhaust.

  • from the same company that brought you ''Ignitiongate'' ... who is surprised by gms complete lack of quality ?

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  • Varezhka And why exactly was it that Tesla decided not to coat their stainless steel bodies, again? My old steel capped Volant skis still looks clean without a rust in sight thanks to that metal vapor coating. It's not exactly a new technology.
  • GIJOOOE “Sounds” about as exciting as driving a golf cart, fake gear shifts or not. I truly hope that Dodge and the other big American car makers pull their heads out of the electric clouds and continue to offer performance cars with big horsepower internal combustion engines that require some form of multi gear transmissions and high octane fuel, even if they have to make them in relatively small quantities and market them specifically to gearheads like me. I will resist the ev future for as long as I have breath in my lungs and an excellent credit score/big bank account. People like me, who have loved fast cars for as long as I can remember, need a car that has an engine that sounds properly pissed off when I hit the gas pedal and accelerate through the gears.
  • Kcflyer libs have been subsidizing college for decades. The predictable result is soaring cost of college and dramatic increases in useless degrees. Their solution? More subsidies of course. EV policy will follow the same failed logic. Because it's not like it's their money. Not saying the republicans are any better, they talk a good game but spend like drunken sailors to buy votes just like the libs. The sole function of the U.S. government is to take money from people who earn it and give it away to people who didn't.
  • CecilSaxon Sounds about as smart as VW's "SoundAktor"