GM says it has Bolt battery fix, will replace modules
Detroit — General Motors Co. will again accept battery supply from LG Energy Solution, allowing replacement battery modules for recalled Chevrolet Bolts to ship to dealers as soon as mid-October, the automaker said Monday.
Production has resumed at LG's battery cell plant in Holland and battery pack plant in Hazel Park. The supplier is adding capacity to make more cells for GM, the automaker said.
Additionally, within 60 days GM is launching a new diagnostic software package to alert customers of potential battery module abnormalities that will eventually allow Bolt customers to charge to a 100% full battery after all diagnostic processes are complete. Bolt customers are currently instructed to only charge to 90% because of a battery fire risk.
GM for several weeks has been evaluating LG's manufacturing processes to figure out how two defects occurred in Bolt cells, forcing the Detroit automaker to recall all Bolt EVs and Bolt EUVs — more than 141,000. The automaker has confirmed 13 battery fires.
GM and LG discovered what caused the defects and “have addressed to make sure that they can't happen going forward and that's what started our production up again to say we can build that with confidence," said Tim Grewe, GM's director of cell engineering and electrification strategy, on a call with media Monday. "The way we build the confidence is we do additional audits and tear-downs to make sure our confidence is fact-based, where we statistically prove that none of these defects can get out of our factories."
LG now has new manufacturing processes and "has worked with GM to review and enhance its quality assurance programs to provide confidence in its batteries moving forward," the automaker said in a press release. "LG will institute these new processes in other facilities that will provide cells to GM in the future."
LG officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Though it's getting in new batteries from LG, GM still plans to keep the Bolt manufacturing plant, Orion Assembly, down through the week of Oct. 11.
GM says the root cause of the fires is two manufacturing defects: a torn anode and a folded separator. To create a battery fire risk, both must be present in the same battery cell.
GM plans to replace battery modules in all Bolts included in the first recall round from model years 2017 to 2019. Owners of those Bolts will also get an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty. In the expanded recall this summer of 2020-22 Bolt EVs and Bolt EUVs, GM said it would replace all defective modules, but until it figures out how to determine if a module is defective, it will replace all of them, Grewe said.
Dealers will have to replace modules and install the new software. Dealers receive labor cost reimbursement for the services, GM said.
"We already have a robust set of training that we've done with dealers in terms of replacing modules or replacing packs, so that education and that process with the technicians has already been in place," he said, noting that the amount of time it will take to replace the modules will vary.
Karl Brauer, executive analyst for iseecars.com, a vehicle search site, doesn't see the Bolt recall really hindering GM's electric-vehicle plans.
"Whether it's unintended acceleration in Toyotas or Firestone tires on Ford Explorers, it's relatively dominant, high-visibility bad news today, but I don't think the long-term impact will be that substantial," Brauer said.
He added that GM "can leverage what happened here to design updated software and monitoring systems that keep this from happening again, or certainly happening to this degree."
David Halvorson, owner of American Chevrolet in Modesto, California, said it seems the priority is getting customers' Bolts fixed rather than the ones sitting on dealer lots.
"Consumers generally get nervous of the unknown," he said. "If we're able to keep them in the loop, and let them know ... the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train ... that's good.
Chevrolet is "working on several different fronts to make sure that we can disseminate as much information to our customers," he said.