Owners of Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles have populated social media pages with an interminable list of questions.
General Motors initially recalled the 2017-19 model year Bolts last November because the batteries could potentially start a fire. The recall came after at least a half dozen Bolts caught fire while parked.
GM thought it had a fix, but then more Bolts caught fire. So in July, GM issued a second recall on the cars. Last month, GM expanded that recall to include all Bolts it ever made through model year 2022, about 141,000 vehicles globally.
More:GM ‘not confident’ LG Chem will build defect-free Bolt batterie
GM has assured Bolt owners that if they follow three steps, the cars should be safe:
- Keep the car charged to only 90%.
- Avoid depleting the battery below 70 miles.
- Do not park it in a garage or charge it overnight.
GM has said it and battery supplier LG Chem have “hundreds of people” working around the clock, every day, to find the cause of the defective battery modules. When it does and is assured LG Chem can produce defect-free new battery modules, GM will notify Bolt owners in writing of a fix and repairs will begin.
But it still leaves owners with questions. Here are some of the top ones:
Q: If the remedy is not available, is this going to be a tediously long process requiring Bolt owners to wait several months before they can get the fix?
A: GM has put the repairs on hold because it is not confident that LG has the capability to build defect-free products yet, Flores said earlier this week.
“So I can’t speculate what the time is going to be for a fix, but rest assured we want to begin the repairs and resume production at Orion (assembly plant) as soon as we can,” Flores said. “But we’re not going to do it until we’re confident we have defect-free products.”
GM does have a team working on ways to improve production efficiency so that when there is a remedy, production of new modules can begin quickly and distribution of parts to dealerships will be swift.
Q: Will GM allow Bolt owners, especially those who just purchased a brand new 2021 or 2022 model, the chance to exit from ownership with a trade to a different vehicle or a buy-back?
A: The automaker is looking at both purchase and lease arrangements on a case-by-case basis and it does not publicly share the criteria it uses in deciding if it will offer a customer an exit from ownership, Flores said.
“We have bought back Bolts as a result of these recalls, but I don’t have a specific number,” Flores said. “We understand that customers are frustrated and we know they didn’t purchase the vehicle to have these concerns. But we’re committed to resolving this issue.”
Q: Will auto insurance rates go up now that the car is a potential fire risk?
A: It’s too early to tell what will happen from an insurance perspective given the current recalls, said Adrienne Woodland, AAA spokeswoman.
“But we will be monitoring the situation,” Woodland said.
Q: Bolt buyers purchased the vehicles with the ability to drive them 250 miles on a full charge. That’s now reduced due to the safety steps limiting charge and mileage depletion. Will GM offer owners some compensation for that limitation?
A: If customers have any concern or want to explore their options, GM is looking at those on a case-by-case basis, Flores said. Those customers can reach out to the Chevrolet EV Concierge at 833-EVCHEVY, which is available 8 a.m.-12 a.m., Monday-Friday; noon-9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Or call their dealer.
“We understand that customers don’t have the range they thought or the flexibility, but in the short term we’re trying to eliminate the risk of a fire until LG can offer defect-free batteries,” Flores said.
Q: Many energy companies offer rate programs to electric car users that have lower per unit electricity costs for overnight usage. Chevy’s instruction to not charge overnight means drivers with those deals are now paying more for the electricity to charge their cars. Will GM provide any restitution to the added costs incurred?
A: GM’s Flores said, “We understand the inconvenience this has caused our customers. We will continue to review all customer concerns, including incidental expenses, on a case by case basis.”
Q: GM is offering an 8 year/100,000 mile warranty on the new battery modules, is that for all the recalled Bolts?
A: Yes and it is added to the car the date the new modules are installed.
Q: If LG Chem could not make defect-free batteries for the Bolt, how can GM trust LG as a partner on the Ultium battery platform that will underpin all future EVs?
A: GM CEO Mary Barra has recently said that GM will continue its relationship with LG, noting the battery defects are limited to the Bolt. She said the Ultium battery platform was developed jointly between GM and LG Energy Solution. But Barra added that GM is open to other battery options for future models, telling Bloomberg Television that, “We have multiple pathways with battery technology.”
Flores said GM has had a long-standing partnership with LG, but the Ultium LLC joint venture is different from a traditional supplier relationship. In Ultium LLC, GM will have more control over the manufacturing process to ensure quality.
“The Ultium cells use an all-new chemistry and design that GM has been involved in from inception,” Flores said. “GM will direct the manufacturing processes used at the Ultium plants and we’re going to bring our 100-years of manufacturing expertise to the plants” at Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.
“This is a very complicated business and both companies are committed to getting it right,” Flores said.
Q: Similarly, why should customers think new battery modules are the fix when LG did not get it right the first time and engineers still are not 100% sure of the problem or remedy?
A: GM and LG know the defects are a torn anode tab and a folded separator in the modules. The presence of those two defects in the same battery cell increases the risk of a fire, Flores said. But GM and LG do not know what is causing those defects in the manufacturing process or if the defects are in every Bolt that is recalled, or just a few. GM is going to replace all the modules to err on the side of caution.
To get it right, GM’s engineers are studying LG’s manufacturing process, tearing down battery packs, inspecting cells and even monitoring how LG packs the cells into the modules to help find the cause of the defects, Flores said.
When Bolt owners are notified that GM has a fix, they will know GM is ” absolutely confident” that LG is building defect-free products, Flores said.
“We know this issue is impacting customers, dealers and families, but we’re trying to do the right thing for the customer and we’ll take as long as it takes,” Flores said. “We have to get this right.”
More:Still no fix as GM scrambles ‘around the clock’ to end Chevy Bolt battery fires
Contact Jamie L. LaReau at 313-222-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletter. Become a subscriber.