With the United States having successfully passed the Inflation Reduction Act over the summer, the financial floodgates have been opened for battery suppliers. Despite often being framed as a massive infrastructure package that would also help tamp down U.S. inflation, the bill also included numerous items from the Biden administration’s climate agenda setting aside billions for industries vowing to go green. This includes the joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution – which will receive $2.5 billion in loans to build three new lithium-ion battery factories.
Michigan’s Orion Assembly will be taking three weeks of downtime this month as General Motors continues addressing the fire recall pertaining to Chevrolet’s all-electric Bolt.
The automaker notified employees that the facility will see production idled from November 15th through December 3rd, though vehicle assembly won’t resume until the 6th. However the plant is already running on a diminished schedule so staff can assist with maximizing LG battery output and offer additional support related to the recall.
The Chevrolet Bolt has evolved from being General Motors’ superstar EV, radiating optimism for the company’s ambitious electrification strategy, to a public relations nightmare in relatively short order. While sales of the hatchback (and EUV) actually skyrocketed in Q2 of 2021, thanks largely to a diminished production output from the same period in 2020, shoppers are becoming aware of the fire reports and prolonged recall campaign that followed.
Another chapter has been added to that story, with GM now convinced that this will be the conclusion of the dejected tale. On Monday, the manufacturer issued an announcement that batteries for the Bolt had resumed production. But they won’t be coming out of the South Korean facility owned by LG Chem that’s been alleged as ground zero for the relevant defects. GM has instead elected to source the units from Michigan while LG improves quality assurance with the automaker peering over its shoulder, hopeful that customers will someday be able to use their car normally. Sadly, that moment still looks to be several months away.
If you’ve been following the Chevrolet Bolt, then you know it’s gone from a competitive front-motor, five-door all-electric subcompact to a tinderbox on wheels. Battery issues have resulted in numerous recalls while the associated fire risk is gradually making it the spiritual successor to the Ford Pinto flambé edition. Though, in fairness, the Bolt issue is nowhere near as devastating as those vintage Ford fires and pales in comparison to the General Motors’ own faulty ignition switch fiasco that left over 100 people dead.
It’s still leaving a bad impression, however, and GM’s latest decision (prudent as it might be) won’t be helping. As part of the recall campaign, the manufacturer has advised owners not to park the vehicle inside garages or close to buildings. It also has a charging protocol for customers to use to help minimize its risk of spontaneous combustion. Following yet another fire incident, GM has updated those recommendations and now advises drivers to park the Bolt at least 50 feet away from all other vehicles.
On Friday, General Motors announced that its recall of the Chevrolet Bolt would result in a loss of $1 billion. But only after it expanded the campaign to encompass every electric vehicle it has produced. Rather than a single $800-million defect requiring fire-prone models to come back for repairs, GM is now confronting two problems and including Bolts (and Bolt EUVs) from 2019 onwards. The automaker has said this will necessitate an additional billion-dollar financial setback.
Keen to avoid being the recipient of the swelling public outrage, the manufacturer has been trying to shift criticism onto battery supplier LG Chem. The South Korean firm has been involved in numerous fire-related recalls pertaining to electric vehicles and GM would very much like to remind you of that, rather than take the blame for building and selling EVs that it’s advising customers not to charge too much or park anywhere near their home.
Chevrolet has issued a statement to owners of Bolt EVs that could be subject to surprise fires while charging, offering more tips on how to avoid burning down their homes while it preps another recall. General Motors and supplier LG Chem have identified “two rare manufacturing defects” that they believe are causing the fires and are suggesting avoid charging their vehicles in an extremely specific manner until after the secondary recall has been conducted.
It looks like the White House won’t be needing to take any action in response to the International Trade Commission’s decision on how to handle the feud between South Korea’s LG Chem and SK Innovation. The duo has reached a settlement that would allow the former battery manufacturer to complete assembly on its $2.6-billion plant located in Georgia.
LG alleged that SK had stolen intellectual property and the ITC was backing punitive measures that would have forbade the latter company from importing certain lithium-ion batteries into the United States under a 10-year exclusion order. While exemptions were made for the components necessary to manufacturer them in the country, the arrangement was tied to SK’s existing orders and limited to just 4 years. The settlement gives SK additional leeway and prevents Joe Biden from having to consider the possibility of blocking the ITC decision as a way of maintaining American jobs.
Hyundai will be recalling 82,000 electric vehicles sold around the world due to a presumed fire risk and its getting a little ugly, though that’s nothing new for the industry. Reports of the brand’s Kona Electric going up in flames (often while charging) started springing up in 2019, causing the manufacturer to call them back for a software update that was supposed to remedy the issue. But South Korean officials decided more needed to be done after one of the fixed vehicles caught fire in January. An investigation was launched and now Hyundai is on the hook for a 1 trillion won ($900 million USD) recall — including the nearly 40 billion won was spent on the initial software solution.
But how much of the blame does Hyundai really deserve when other manufacturers are having similar issues with their electric cars? Couldn’t the supplier be somewhat responsible? Absolutely not, explains battery supplier LG Chem.
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.
Did you know that the Volt’s most important and priciest ingredient comes from Korea? The Volt battery is made by LG Chem, the battery arm of the Korean company formerly known as Lucky Goldstar. Noises coming from Korea indicate that GM might be building more Volts than thought. How do the Koreans know that? GM ordered more batteries.
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