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GM decided on August 23, 2021 to expand its 2020 recall of 2017 to 2019 Chevrolet Bolts for fires caused by the batteries in the electric vehicles. The timing and expansion of the recall to all Chevrolet Bolts raise many questions. Originally, GM recalled just the 2017 to 2019 Bolts with a software patch. This is how GM originally informed NHTSA of the scope of the problem:
From July 20, 2020 through August 26, 2020, GM received four claims alleging that the high-voltage battery pack in a Chevrolet Bolt vehicle caused a fire. GM opened a product investigation on August 26, 2020 to investigate these claims. From August 26, 2020 through November 5, 2020, GM’s product investigation team conducted field- and warranty-data searches and onsite vehicle inspections to investigate the origin of the alleged fires. GM also worked with LG Chem, the supplier of the high-voltage battery cells, to identify a potential root cause. In total, GM has identified 12 fire-related allegations involving 2017 through 2019 model year Chevrolet Bolt vehicles that may be battery-related. Of these 12 claims, GM has, to date, confirmed that a battery-related fire appears to have occurred in five cases
These five incidents occurred on: March 17, 2019; June 29, 2020; July 4, 2020; July 30, 2020; and August 25, 2020. GM has pre-incident battery state-of-charge data on four of these incidents; in all four cases, the vehicle’s high-voltage battery pack appears to have been at a high state of charge, according to the available data, just before the fire occurred. GM updated NHTSA regarding the status of its investigation on September 2, 2020; September 16, 2020; September 30, 2020; and October 21, 2020. On November 5, 2020, GM’s Safety and Field Action Decision Authority decided to conduct a safety recall.
GM’s solution was to recall just the 2017 to 2019 Bolts. The later models (2020 to 2022) have the same high-voltage battery cells from Korean manufacturer LG Chem. GM said of the 50,932 2017-2019 Bolts that an estimated 1%, or approximately 600, contained a defect that could cause a fire (while people are sleeping at home).
GM originally came up with a software fix (nice, cheap and not too scary) to limit the vehicles to 90% charging. GM originally planned to notify owners in April and May 2021 of this nifty remedy.
Why did GM change its decision? Well, it seems that on July 2, 2021, GM became aware of a 2019 Bolt with that amazing (and really, really affordable) software patch burst into flames. Hot damn.
The updated recall finally replaces the combustible batteries and is for all 2017 to 2022 Chevy Bolts
The updated, improved, and not simply an affordable software recall is going to replace the Korean made LG Chem batteries on all Chevy Bolts. In the interim, GM recommends not charging the vehicles overnight or in their garages. Wonderful.
If the battery for your Chevy Bolt did catch fire, do not trust the people who offered the software patch. Contact counsel and secure the vehicle remains. Our office has extensive experience litigating product liability against manufacturers, including GM. In 2011, we obtained a then record fine by NTHSA against a manufacturer for lying about recalls. If you have any questions, please contact Kristensen LLP.