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Chevrolet Bolt battery fixes to start by mid-October, GM says

Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

General Motors will start making battery fixes to over 140,000 recalled Chevrolet Bolts EVs and EUVs beginning in mid-October.

The 2017-19 model year Bolt EVs will get five new battery modules, essentially getting an enhanced battery pack.

For the 2020-22 models, they will get all new modules too, unless GM can finish developing software that will allow it to identify whether they have defective modules that need replacing.

On Monday, GM's battery-maker LG Chem has restarted production at LG's plants in Holland, Michigan, and Hazel Park. They have been down since August, but GM spokesman Kevin Kelly did not know specific dates.

LG is also adding capacity to the plants so it can make more cells as needed by GM, Kelly said. As a result, replacement battery modules will begin shipping to dealers as soon as mid-October.

"We're grateful for the patience of owners and dealers as we work to advance solutions to this recall," said Doug Parks, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. "Resuming battery module production is a first step and we'll continue to work aggressively with LG to obtain additional battery supply."

GM's production of new Bolt EVs and EUVs at Orion Assembly plant has been halted since Aug. 23. It is scheduled to remain down through the week of Oct. 11, and Kelly said, "We'll continue to monitor the situation in terms of when we'll bring the plant back up."

In August, GM expanded its second recall on the Bolt to include 2017-22 model year Bolt EVs and the new EUV, an all-electric compact SUV.

On Monday GM and LG confirmed that the root cause of a battery fire is two manufacturing defects known as a torn anode and a folded separator, both of which need to be present in the same battery cell for a possible fire to occur. So far, GM confirms there have now been 13 Bolts that have caught fire while parked and three injuries. Eleven of those fires were in the U.S.

To assure Bolt owners of this fix, LG has implemented new manufacturing processes and has worked with GM to review and enhance its quality assurance programs. LG will institute these new processes in LG's South Korean facilities, which provide cells to GM, in the future.

Additionally, GM will begin launching a new advanced diagnostic software package within the next 60 days that will reduce the inconvenience for customers while waiting for their battery module repair.

This software will detect specific abnormalities that might indicate a damaged battery in Bolt EVs and EUVs by monitoring the battery performance; alerting customers of any anomalies, and prioritizing damaged battery modules for replacement. Once the diagnostic software is installed and the diagnostic processes are complete, Bolt owners can return to a 100% state of charge.

This new software, which will be provided to all Bolt EV and EUV owners, requires dealer installation, which can be scheduled starting in 60 days. But those customers will still have to get the new battery modules completed at some point.

 

"We're optimistic a new advanced diagnostic software will provide more convenience for our customers," Parks said.

GM will prioritize Bolt EV and EUV customers whose batteries were manufactured during specific build timeframes where GM believes battery defects appear to be clustered.

"We know the timeframes, but we're not sharing them publicly," said GM spokesman Dan Flores.

GM has a notification process that will inform affected customers when their replacement modules will be available.

GM also updated its parking instructions for Bolt owners after it said last week to not parkin parking structures and to park 50 feet from other vehicles. Kelly said if customers are following GM's safety instructions, they can park in a location of their choice, even parking structures.

"But leave ample space, it doesn't have to be 50 feet, but ample space between vehicles," Kelly said, adding GM is not aware of any fires that have occurred where customers followed this safety guidance, in parking decks or otherwise.

As a reminder, here are the safety guidelines from GM:

—Keep the car charged to only 90%.

—Avoid depleting the battery below a range of at least 70 miles.

—Do not park the car in a garage or charge it overnight.

But many owners have told the Free Press they want GM to buy their cars back, stating they no longer feel safe driving them. But GM said it has been buying back Bolts on a case-by-case basis.

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