GM issues remedy for Bolt recall over battery fires

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. has finalized its investigation into battery fires that occurred on a handful of Chevrolet Bolt EVs and is notifying customers with a fix for the issue. 

Last November, GM voluntarily recalled 68,667 Chevrolet Bolt EVs manufactured between 2017-2019 and worked with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration to pinpoint what caused multiple battery fires. The automaker at that time had found five confirmed incidents of battery fires on the Bolt when the batteries were either at full-charge or almost fully charged. GM told customers then to keep their Bolt batteries at a max of 90% charged. 

GM's experts concluded a "rare manufacturing defect in certain battery modules in vehicles from these production years" led to the fires, GM spokesman Dan Flores said in a statement to The Detroit News. That defect could cause "a heat source or a short in a cell, which could propagate into a fire."

To fix the issue, the automaker created tools for "dealers to diagnose battery issues as well as advanced onboard diagnostic software that, among other things, has the ability to detect potential issues related to changes in battery module performance before they become potential problems during vehicle operation and charging," Flores said. 

Customers with the affected Bolts will have to visit a participating Chevrolet EV dealer to have the remedy completed. After the fix is in place, Bolt drivers will be able to charge to 100%.

The remedy is open to owners of the 2019 Bolt EVs starting today. Customers with 2017 and 2018 model year Bolt EVs will be eligible for the remedy by the end of May.

GM also plans to make advanced diagnostic software available to all other Bolt EV owners in the coming months and the diagnostic software will come standard in the 2022 Bolt EV and EUV and other future GM electric vehicles.

With the remedy in place, the diagnostics software will send off "different warnings to the driver and different responses from the vehicle depending on the nature of the problem," Flores said. "In all cases, the diagnostics illuminate a warning lamp on the vehicle’s gauge cluster."