Chevrolet’s battery fire recall for its Bolt EVs just got so much worse.
The automaker announced Friday that it will be recalling an additional 72,000 cars, including more 2019 Bolt EVs and 2020-2022 Bolt EVs and EUVs. The 2022 EUVs are Chevy’s brand new SUV-sized Bolts. GM had high hopes for the car with a hands-free driving feature as it innovated its Bolt line.
The expanded effort, which covers the U.S. and Canada, comes after Chevy recalled about 68,600 2017-2019 Bolt EVs in November. Chevy rolled out a software fix for those cars in June, but some fixed Bolts’ batteries continued to catch fire. Earlier this week, Chevy announced it would be replacing battery modules, which is where battery cells sit, in the cars, but not offering entirely new battery packs. It plans to extend the same recourse to the new batch of EVs and EUVs included in the broadened recall.
“In rare circumstances, the batteries supplied to GM for these vehicles may have two manufacturing defects — a torn anode tab and folded separator — present in the same battery cell, which increases the risk of fire,” GM wrote in its announcement.
Behind the scenes, Chevy has been offering buybacks to some EV owners. But the process has been handled on a case-by-case basis, frustrating confused customers who want their money back.
Chevy has spent $800 million so far on the recall effort. Widening the recall to 140,000 vehicles will cost the company $1 billion, according to the announcement.
The total recall now eclipses that of Hyundai, which this year recalled 82,000 Konas and Ioniq EVs over battery fires as well. Hyundai shelled out $900 million for that effort. Both companies used LG lithium ion batteries. Mashable has reached out to LG for comment, but GM said the companies are working together “to rectify the cause of these defects.”
At first, Chevrolet officials thought only vehicles with batteries built in an LG plant in South Korea were defective. That’s why the first recall only included 2017, 2018, and some 2019 Bolt EVs. However, the company has since discovered the manufacturing defects in batteries from other facilities as well.
During the first recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that the battery cell manufacturing defect “appears to be aggravated by routinely charging the battery to a full or nearly full state of charge after it has been substantially depleted.”
GM has advised that customers in the new recall pool limit charging to 90 percent (this can be done through the infotainment screen or at a dealer), always have at least 70 miles of range, park outside after charging, and avoid leaving cars indoors overnight.
“Our focus on safety and doing the right thing for our customers guides every decision we make at GM,” Doug Parks, GM executive vice president, global product development, purchasing, and supply chain, said in a statement. “As leaders in the transition to an all-electric future, we know that building and maintaining trust is critical. GM customers can be confident in our commitment to taking the steps to ensure the safety of these vehicles.”
GM’s invested heavily in a brand new Ultium battery system, which is more flexible and cheaper to produce, in order to go all in on electric by 2035. The new battery was expected to be used in a new model of 2023 Bolt EVs and 2024 Bolt EUVs.
Chevy paid me $33,000 after it recalled my Bolt EV. Here’s how I got my money back.
While gas-powered cars’ batteries catch on fire more often than EV batteries, EV battery fires like those in Bolts and Teslas ping pong around the internet. The battery is an important element to EV adoption as car buyers consider range anxiety and battery replacement costs down the line.
As part of its plan to replace the battery modules, Chevy is promising an 8-year/100,000-mile limited warranty on the new parts. Chevy offered 8-year warranties on its Bolt EV batteries previously.
UPDATE: Aug. 20, 2021, 3:25 p.m. PDT This post has been updated to include new details of the recall.