Electric Car

GM renews caution over fire concerns

Drivers of certain 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV models recently endured months of living with just 90% of their battery capacity and range—and a winter of charging outside—due to concerns over fire risk. 

As of Wednesday, they’re being advised by the automaker to go back to parking outside and not to leave their cars charging overnight, at the peak times that afford the most benefit for the environment.  

The issue goes back to a safety probe launched by NHTSA in October, followed by GM’s announcement of its own investigation and advice to owners in November. Things looked hopeful in May, when GM announced that it had developed a comprehensive remedy plan for the issue that would “utilize GM-developed diagnostic tools to identify potential battery anomalies and replace battery module assemblies as necessary.”

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

All of the incidents involved a fire originating around the vehicles’ battery packs, when the cars were plugged in and nearly fully charged. GM noted that none of the vehicles affected have the “design level N2.1” cells that GM transitioned to in mid-2019. Those unaffected cells were made in Holland, Michigan, rather than Ochang, South Korea, for the earlier ones. 

Now owners are being advised to go back to caution mode. The situation has some strange optics as GM prepares for first deliveries of its GMC Hummer EV, which leads its Ultium EV push with unrelated, next-generation technology, later this year. 

Hyundai faced a similar issue with some Kona Electric models, and opted in March for a quick but expensive fix: to replace the entire battery pack in up to 82,000 affected vehicles, including nearly 4,700 in the U.S.

Chevrolet Bolt EV fire - Vermont State Police

Chevrolet Bolt EV fire – Vermont State Police

This action relates to two fires GM is aware of, which affected vehicles that already had the remedy performed. One of them occurred on July 1, in an incident reported by the Vermont State Police, stating that the vehicle was parked, plugged in, and charging at the time of the fire. According to local reports, that Bolt EV belonged to Vermont state representative Timothy Briglin, who has co-sponsored EV-related legislation. 

GM issued the following statement: “General Motors has been notified of two recent Chevrolet Bolt EV fire incidents in vehicles that were remedied as part of the safety recall announced in November 2020. Out of an abundance of caution, we are asking owners of 2017-2019 Chevrolet Bolt EVs who were part of the recall population to park their vehicles outdoors immediately after charging and not leave their vehicles charging overnight while we investigate these incidents.”

Meanwhile, the company told Green Car Reports that it’s advising owners who haven’t already had the recall remedy completed to please do so as the investigation continues. Customers may contact 1-833-EVCHEVY or their dealership with questions, or check the Bolt EV recall page for more information.

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