GM announces recall after a dozen Bolt EV Fires; 6 key questions we need answers to

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Electrek 23 July, 2021 - 08:19am 47 views

- Jul. 23rd 2021 6:19 am PT

GM has announced a new recall N212343880 after a dozen reported fires in a little more than a year, and at least two fires this month that had their “final” software fix in place. Here’s what you need to know, and the major questions with some updated answers from GM.

GM again exploded into the mainstream news last week with an announcement that it was no longer safe to charge the Chevy Bolt EV unattended and that owners should park outside and away from structures out of fire concerns. Many owners who don’t pay attention to the news were frustrated to find out this week via Facebook or other sources. Despite not being included in the announcement, GM almost silently replied on Twitter that owners should also go back to only charging to 90%, reminiscent of the original recall late last year.

This all started with a recall of 68,000 Bolt EVs in November of last year. While Hyundai had a similar problem and eventually elected to replace all Kona EV batteries with newer ones, GM decided that software could fix their problems. There have been at least two Bolt EV fires that had the final software update installed, which prompted GM’s recent announcement.

While some are quick to point out that electric vehicle fires are still less common than gas car fires, the opposite is actually true with the Bolt EV. Especially the 2019 model year, which is more than an order of magnitude more likely to catch fire than a 2019 gas car, and it can do so in the middle of the night when you’re sleeping.

This morning GM finally has an announcement:

As part of this recall, GM will replace defective battery modules in the recall population. We will notify customers when replacement parts are ready. While we prepare to conduct this recall, we are asking customers to take the following steps until the new remedy has been performed:

1.             Customers should, whether or not they received the current software update, return their vehicle to the 90% state of charge limitation using Hilltop Reserve mode (for 2017-2018 model years) or Target Charge Level (for 2019 model year) mode. If customers are unable to successfully make these changes, or do not feel comfortable making these changes, we are asking them to visit their dealer to have these adjustments completed.

2.             Additionally, we ask that customers charge their vehicle after each use and avoid depleting their battery below approximately 70 miles of remaining range, where possible.  

3.             Out of an abundance of caution, customers should continue to park their vehicles outside immediately after charging and not leave their vehicles charging overnight.

In the meantime, customers who have not visited their dealer to receive the advanced diagnostics software should visit their nearest Chevrolet EV dealer to obtain the update.  After obtaining the software, customers should still limit their state of charge to 90% and otherwise follow the advice above.

We encourage owners who have additional questions or concerns to visit www.chevy.com/boltevrecall or contact the Chevrolet EV Concierge 1-833-EVCHEVY (available Monday through Friday from 8:00am – 12:00am ET; Saturday and Sunday from 12:00pm – 9:00 pm ET) or contact their preferred Chevrolet EV dealer.

This is quite the reveal. LG has had a really bad no good horrible year.

LG Energy Solutions makes the battery for the Bolt and Kona EV, as well as has their own line of stationary storage products for residential and grid storage. First, they agreed to replace the 82,000 batteries sold to Hyundai for the Kona EV, Ioniq, and Elec City buses. Although the initial rumors were from a faulty battery separator, Hyundai later said that the problem was badly folded tabs. LG denied this, instead putting the blame back on Hyundai. GM emphatically pointed out that they use a different separator, and a different factory. Thus neither of those problems should apply to the Bolt fires. But certainly now we have questions.

Porsche recently initiated a recall on a loss of power in its Taycan LG batteries, and Ford also moved from LG in its Mustang Mach-E to SK in its Ford F-150 Lightning.

In December LG announced a US recall for some of their home battery systems. Again in March for Australia. Finally, in May, they announced a worldwide free replacement program for any units made between April 2017 and September 2018. Now there’s a class action lawsuit against LG launched a bit more than a month ago, alleging a systematic battery problem. Another class action lawsuit has been filed against Chevrolet for the same reason.

A grid storage location fire in Arizona in 2019 that caused an explosion was determined to be a single LG cell catching fire. Of particular note:

Cells taken at random from elsewhere in the battery system, and from its twin system at Festival Ranch, showed “lithium metal deposition and abnormal dendritic growth”

Put together, it’s pretty clear that LG cells have some problems.

After all this, Hyundai is switching to SK Innovation batteries for the Ioniq 5. This perhaps played into LG’s decision to settle their lawsuit against SK for $1.8 billion USD.

Their problems aren’t over either. Another Hyundai Kona EV caught fire about a month ago. It’s unclear if it had had its battery replaced; the process is expected to take more than a year due to supply constraints.

We reached out to GM for comment, and they have been very responsive this morning which is great to see. Here’s what we know so far:

The recalled population includes vehicles where cells where made at LG plant in Ochang, Korea.   We don’t think every vehicle within recall population had defective batteries.  The defect is the simultaneous presence of two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell.   We believe if customers follow the steps we are suggesting while they wait to complete the new recall repair that should mitigate any battery safety risk.

The spokesperson also mentioned that GM is still working around the clock on the recall update to finalize the details.

Full text of the recall N212343880 is available here, or through checking your VIN on the Chevy Bolt EV Recall website.

A: Up to and including all modules in the pack, if necessary.

A: The same vehicle population that was affected by the original recall will have replacements. While we are finalizing the repair remedy for the new recall, we will be replacing defective battery modules in the recall population. The final repair might end up including the entire pack or just defective modules or a single module.  It is safe to assume that most owners will have something (i.e. module(s)) replaced.

A: While our existing software diagnostics and battery inspections have been successful, that remedy does not appear to have been fully effective at addressing the safety risk in all vehicles.

A: We are unable to provide this information.

A: We will notify customers when replacement parts are ready.

A: (Refer to the 3 points in the recall announcement text above)

This is a pretty big reveal – there’s not only one but two “simultaneous” defects have been found? This either strains credibility or means that LG has a huge problem, especially in context of what has been happening with LG lately.

We do have to applaud GM for moving on this. While it may seem like three weeks from these latest two fires is a long time, remember how slow big companies move. The last recall investigation took about five weeks from when NHTSA opened an investigation to announcing it, and then took six months before we had an answer. This is a relatively short period of time.

We also should commend GM on their communication this morning. This is obviously a huge deal that has a lot of moving pieces, and GM has been very responsive and discussing things with us this morning. While we don’t have complete answers yet, everyone is working as quickly as they can.

It’s great that it sounds like GM will be doing at least some replacements on every pack. Hopefully this means that if the module is not determined to be safe, it will be replaced.

Having said all this: considering the risk, especially to early 2019 Model Year owners, it’s understandable if owners are still anxious. The May 1st fire was reportedly only charged to about 70%, so it’s unclear if limiting to 90% will help. If the damage inside the battery has already been done, it’s just a matter of time until more fires occur. Hopefully GM can move fast with their inspections and replacements.

Avoiding deep discharges is also curious – that’s a pattern that we found and reported on several times. Seventy miles is somewhere around 30% charge, so limiting to 90% charge means we’re down to 60% usable capacity. It’s unclear if this will actually prevent fires.

It’s also unclear how they’re going to determine which cells have the problems. Maybe the latest three fires will give them that, but they’ve had 13 months and a dozen fires to investigate. It’s been eight months since the recall was first announced. If they haven’t been able to figure it out since then, how much longer is it going to take and what are they going to be able to find now?

Most importantly – how long is all of this going to take, and will these precautions prevent more fires and keep owners safe in the meantime?

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GM recalls Bolts, will replace battery modules

Automotive News 23 July, 2021 - 10:01am

GM did not say when the replacements would start.

"We're working with our supplier and manufacturing teams to determine how to best expedite battery capacity for module replacement under this recall," spokesman Dan Flores told Automotive News. "Teams are working around the clock to find ways to increase battery availability."

As GM targets an all-electric portfolio by 2035, the automaker has touted its early EV entry, the Bolt, which launched in 2016. The automaker more than doubled U.S. Bolt sales in the first half of this year and expanded into new markets.

GM and supplier LG Chem identified two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell, which has led to the fires, GM said in an emailed statement. GM believes those defects are related to production of the cells by LG in South Korea, said Flores. The defect could result in a heat source or a short in a cell, which could cause a fire.

Bolts built for the 2017 and 2018 model years used the LG Chem batteries made in South Korea. For the 2019 model year, some Bolts were built with the Korean batteries, while others used LG Chem batteries made in Holland, Mich. GM said Bolts built with the Michigan batteries were not affected.

GM developed a diagnostic tool to identify potential battery anomalies and replace battery-module assemblies as necessary. Dealers also installed advanced onboard diagnostic software that can detect potential issues related to changes in battery-module performance before problems occur.

Even after GM's fix, at least two Bolt drivers reported fires. In one case, a 2019 Bolt owned by Vermont Rep. Timothy Briglin, a supporter of EVs in the state Legislature, caught fire while charging in his driveway.

Until replacement battery parts are ready, GM is advising customers to return their vehicle to the 90 percent state of charge limitation using Hilltop Reserve mode (2017-18 model years) or Target Charge Level (2019 model year). GM also asks customers to charge their vehicle after each use and to avoid depleting their battery below 70 miles of remaining range. The automaker suggests that customers continue to park their vehicles outside immediately after charging and avoid overnight charging.

GM also recommends that customers who have not received the advanced diagnostics software, GM's initial battery remedy, visit their dealership for the update.

GM said 2020 Bolts are not affected because they were built with a different battery chemistry that increased range. All Bolts are powered by GM's previous-generation battery architecture, not the proprietary Ultium battery that will power its future EV lineup, which includes the GMC Hummer pickup and SUV, Cadillac Lyriq and Chevrolet Silverado EV.

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GM recalling Chevy Bolt EVs — again — after vehicles catch fire

New York Post 23 July, 2021 - 08:59am

By Will Feuer

July 23, 2021 | 9:59am | Updated July 23, 2021 | 10:28am

General Motors on Friday issued the second recall in less than a year for its 2017-2019 Chevy Bolt EVs after some of the cars that had already been repaired still erupted into flames.

Officials with GM and LG, which supplies the electric car’s battery cells, have identified a second “rare manufacturing defect” that increases the risk of a fire, the Detroit-based automaker said.

The recall covers about 69,000 cars globally, including almost 51,000 in the US.

GM said it will replace the defective battery in the recalled cars at no cost to customers.

The company asked that owners put a 90 percent state of charge limit on the cars until the recall fix can be implemented.

The announcement comes a week after GM and federal regulators urged owners to park the Chevy Bolts outside and away from their home due to the risk of fire.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week that the battery cell packs in the 2017-2019 Bolt EVs “have the potential to smoke and ignite internally.”

The fire could then spread to the rest of the vehicle and cause a structure fire if the vehicle is parked inside a garage or near a house, the NHTSA warned.

The federal regulator opened an investigation into the matter in October and issued a recall for the 51,000 affected cars in the US in November.

But the agency acknowledged last week that it’s now aware of two separate incidents of fires in the electric cars that had already “received the recall remedy.”

One of the fires occurred while the car was charging at the home of a Vermont state lawmaker earlier this month, CNBC reported.

GM issues new recall for nearly 69,000 Bolt EVs due to fire risks

The Globe and Mail 23 July, 2021 - 08:14am

Audio for this article is not available at this time.

This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy. Full Disclaimer

A Bolt EV at a General Motors plant in Lake Orion, Mich., on March 19, 2018.

General Motors Co said Friday it is issuing a new recall for nearly 69,000 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide for fire risks after reports of two new fires.

The Bolt EVs were recalled in November for fire risks and at least one of the two new fires was in a vehicle that had already had the software update released as part of the recall.

The recall comes after GM and U.S. safety regulators last week urged those owners to park vehicles outside and away from homes after charging.

The largest U.S. automaker said “experts from GM and (battery maker) LG have identified the simultaneous presence of two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell as the root cause of battery fires in certain Chevrolet Bolt EVs.”

GM said it will replace defective battery modules in the recall population but it is not clear how many are defective. The recall includes 50,925 U.S. vehicles.

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged those 50,925 Bolt owners to park outside and away from homes and other structures after charging because of fire risks.

The Chevrolet Bolt vehicles being recalled again are from the 2017-2019 model years and were first recalled for the potential of an unattended fire in the high-voltage battery pack underneath the backseat’s bottom cushion.

GM said Friday that all of the nearly 69,000 Bolt owners should return vehicles to a 90 per cent state of charge limitation that the company first instructed owners to use in November before the recall fix had been completed.

The automaker also asked owners to charge their vehicle after each use and avoid depleting their battery below approximately 70 miles of remaining range, where possible, to reduce the risk of a fire.

GM said it was still recommending customers park vehicles outside immediately after charging and not leave their vehicles charging overnight – and to get the software update as part of the initial recall.

GM said earlier the high voltage batteries being recalled were produced at LG Chem Ltd’s Ochang, South Korean facility.

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GM recalls Bolt EVs again because some batteries may pose fire risk

Detroit Free Press 23 July, 2021 - 08:01am

This time, GM said it would recall all 2017-19 model-year Bolts. In total, the recall involves 68,000 vehicles globally; of those, 50,925 are in the United States. The vehicles contain high voltage batteries produced at LG Chem’s Ochang, South Korea, facility. 

"As part of GM’s commitment to safety, experts from GM and LG have identified the simultaneous presence of two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell as the root cause of battery fires in certain Chevrolet Bolt EVs," GM spokesman Dan Flores said in a statement. "As part of this recall, GM will replace defective battery modules in the recall population. We will notify customers when replacement parts are ready." 

Also, Flores said GM recommends they do the following:

While this Bolt recall is a recall, it's hardly GM's biggest. In 2014, GM recalled more than 2.7 million cars due to faulty ignition switches that could cause the engines to stall in small GM vehicles such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. Altogether that scandal left at least 124 people dead and 275 injured. In 2017, GM agreed to pay $120 million to settle claims from dozens of states related to the defective switches.

GM said it found five vehicles in which the batteries caught fire without any impact, injuring two people with smoke inhalation. In GM's initial investigation, it found that the five affected Bolts all had the high voltage batteries made by LG Chem’s Ochang, South Korea, facility.

Another commonality among the five vehicles was they were at full charge or right below that when they caught fire.

At the time, the automaker warned owners of those vehicles that until dealers can make a software fix, the owners should reset their battery to a maximum of 90% charge to lessen the risk of the car catching fire. If they cannot do that, GM advises to not park the car in a garage or carport.

But since that first recall, there have been two more Bolt fires. Earlier this month, GM again warned owners of 2017-19 Bolt EVs to not park the vehicles in the garage.

“One of the fires, we can confirm was a battery fire,” Flores said. “It was in Vermont  and we confirmed that the fire was battery related and that customer did have the recall software performed and did everything he was supposed to do.”

The 2019 Bolt that caught fire belonged to Vermont State Rep. Tim Briglin, the Associated Press reported. He drove it to work and back home on June 30, depleting the battery to around 10% of its range. He plugged it into a 240-volt outdoor charger that evening and left the Bolt in his driveway.

Briglin told AP that GM would find him a 2021 or 2022 model to replace his, which was a total loss. Flores could not confirm how Briglin got his replacement Bolt.

The other EV that caught fire was in New Jersey. GM has been unable to confirm the cause because the owner's insurance company was having the wrecked, charred vehicle transported on a flatbed truck and the truck was stolen. That Bolt has not been found. 

GM issues new recall on Bolts after more battery fires

The Detroit News 23 July, 2021 - 08:00am

To fix the defects, GM will replace battery hardware where necessary though the actual repair procedure is still being finalized, Flores said. The automaker doesn't believe every Bolt is affected, he added, with so far eight confirmed battery fires, including one that had received the previous recall fix in Vermont. 

The new recall notice comes after two previously recalled Bolts that had been repaired caught fire, pushing the automaker to tell consumers last week to park 2017 through 2019 model year Bolts outdoors. 

The Detroit automaker first recalled globally 68,667 Bolts manufactured between 2017-2019 last November because of multiple battery fire incidents and told consumers to keep their batteries at a 90% max charge level out of caution.

Friday's recall covers the same population as the November recall, which covered more than 50,900 Bolts in the U.S. It includes all of the Bolts manufactured in the 2017 and 2018 model year and only a portion of the 2019 model year. 

Customers who haven't should go to a dealer for the advanced diagnostics software, GM said Friday, but even with the software they should still limit the max charge to 90%.

Bolt owners with questions or concerns can visit: chevy.com/boltevrecall, contact the Chevrolet EV Concierge 1-833-EVCHEVY or reach out to their preferred Chevrolet EV dealer.

GM issues 2nd Bolt recall; faulty batteries can cause fires

WDIV ClickOnDetroit 23 July, 2021 - 07:59am

Until repairs are done, GM says owners should park the cars outdoors, limit charging to 90% of battery capacity, and not deplete batteries below 70 miles of range. The company says the Bolts should not be charged overnight, and should be parked outside immediately after they are charged.

The second recall comes after two Bolts that had been fixed under a previous recall caught fire, one in Vermont and the other in New Jersey. It covers about 69,000 Bolts worldwide from 2017, 2018 and part of the 2019 model year. All have batteries made by LG Chem in South Korea.

The recall is another bug in a growing global rollout of electric vehicles by all automakers to replace internal combustion vehicles to cut emissions and fight climate change. Ford, BMW and Hyundai all have recalled batteries recently. Also, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigated a series of fires in Tesla vehicles and earlier this year said the high-voltage lithium-ion batteries pose safety risks to first responders after crashes.

GM says in a statement Friday that the faulty Bolt batteries can have two rare manufacturing defects in the same cell at the same time. So GM will now replace any defective battery modules and possibly the whole battery pack.

Spokesman Dan Flores says engineers are still working around the clock on how to find the battery defect and what the repairs will be. He said GM doesn’t know how long it will take to develop the fix. The number of Bolts with the defect is likely to be small, Flores said.

The previous recall announced in April didn't fully fix the problem. It was diagnostic software designed to look for battery anomalies. If one was found, GM said it would replace faulty parts.

Some 2019 Bolts and those from the 2020 and 2021 model years are not affected. Their batteries were made by LG in Holland, Michigan.

“We understand that the previous recall and this recall significantly inconvenience our customers,” Flores said. “We appreciate their patience and we understand their frustration.”

GM will handle customer complaints about the inconvenience and lower travel range on a case-by-case basis, he said.

The company says owners who haven’t had the first recall repairs done should still take their cars to dealers to get the fixes.

The first recall came after the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the fires last year. The agency said in a statement Friday that it is evaluating GM's recall repairs and the fires.

Once the final recall repairs are made, the Bolts’ full range will be restored. Older Bolts can go about 238 miles (383 kilometers) per charge.

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